As a contrast to the article I’ve been reflecting on over the past two days, today I’d like to share this amazing essay by Rebecca Solnit: Why Climate Despair is a Luxury. In it she describes hope as the antidote to both optimism and pessimism because it does not assume a fixed outcome.
“What motivates us to act is a sense of possibility within uncertainty – that the outcome is not yet fully determined and our actions may matter in shaping it. This is all that hope is, and we are all teeming with it, all the time, in small ways.”
Whether you believe the future to be good or bad, both can cause a similar sort of inaction in the present. Why bother trying if the end is certain? Hope stands in contrast to both because it suggests that what we do today actually matters to the future. It also compels us to keep going even when we can’t see the immediate results of our actions because it keeps us rooted in the future. We struggle and fight today for the sake of those who come after. We do not know what will happen and so we cannot give up.
It seems to me that hope becomes a potential antidote to the ark-head thinking I wrote about previously. Where ark-building embraces a me-centric view (saving me and mine), hope calls us to not give up on those the flood is most threatening. As Solnit writes,
“You shouldn’t mourn those who aren’t dead. Doing so stuffs the living into coffins, at the very least in your imagination.”