Cultivating Hope

Lately, I have been struggling to feel optimistic. The Ukraine invasion is heavy on my mind. In the big world, there are many other pressing problems (you know the list). Yet I want to be hopeful. In fact, I kind of insist on it. 

I have been heartened by the astonishing global reaction to the Russian invasion. 

I also remind myself that historically, when cataclysmic events have changed the world order, sometimes positive change happens too. It may be that having been through something terrible, people vow, “Never again,” as the Greatest Generation did after WWII. Their commitment to preventing more world wars held for decades, not perfectly, but mostly. Taking the long view gives me hope.

I strive for perspective and balance. I remind myself my own life is fine. But sometimes I backslide into overwhelm: How can we find lasting peace, address the climate crisis, shore up our democracy, and so much more? It all feels insoluble. What can one person do? 

What I finally come to is, what other choice do we have? We have to keep trying to change and improve the world. And that means hoping.

Howard Zinn, in “The Optimism of Uncertainty” expresses what I believe better than I can—

To be hopeful in bad times is based on the fact that human history is a history not only of cruelty, but also of compassion, sacrifice, courage, kindness. If we see only the worst, it destroys our capacity to do something. 

If we remember those times and places—and there are so many—where people have behaved magnificently, this gives us the energy to act, and at least the possibility of sending this spinning top of a world in a different direction. 

And if we do act, in however small a way, we don’t have to wait for some grand utopian future. To live now as we think human beings should live, in defiance of all that is bad around us, is itself a marvelous victory.

8 thoughts on “Cultivating Hope

  1. When struggling for various reasons – some known, some unknown – I remember “BElieve THEre is GOOD in the world.” (See the capitalized message?) I also try to watch as little news as possible. The repetitiveness can be overwhelming. It also helps to “Look for the good.” This can be found in each day and each other, which can refresh our hope.

    • I like your philosophy! I’m learning to reduce my news intake and I regularly remind myself of what’s good in my world. Thanks for sharing your thoughts.

  2. I couldn’t agree more. We are facing some very real problems, but we have to find a way to hope and live even so. I think of those who lived through WWII, for instance….that was a terrible time in history, and yet people continued with their lives as best they could. Stand up for what we believe in, take sensible precautions, and then: live. That’s all we can do.

    • Thank you! I felt like you and I were approaching the same topic from different angles— how to get through and not lose hope during scary times.

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