Being chronically negative is cumulatively corrosive. It leads toward becoming a naysayer, a cynic, a person with a perpetually defeatist attitude. What if, in the face of challenge, we mourned what needs mourning, then tended to the task of rekindling our light?
-Karen Jandorf via Peace on the Inside
I won’t desecrate beauty with cynicism anymore. I won’t confuse critical thinking with a critical spirit, and I will practice, painfully, over and over, patience and peace until my gentle answers turn away even my own wrath. I will breathe fresh air while I learn, all over again, grace freely given and wisdom honored; and when my fingers fumble, when I sound flat or sharp, I will simply try again.
-Sarah Bessey, shared by Christy in Salt Lake City, UT
I’ve spent plenty of time in the land of overly sunny optimism, and I’m not unfamiliar with the stormy seas of cynicism. Most of the time, though, I’m at home on an island of realistic optimism. It’s a place where I’m fully conscious of the weather: ready to party in the sunshine (slathered with lots of SPF sunscreen of course) and to batten down the hatches when difficult times arrive.
I’ve been re-watching one of my favorite TV shows, The West Wing, for the umpteenth time, and was all excited last week when I got to relive Congressman Santos’ stirring No False Hope campaign kickoff speech where he’s standing in front of his elementary school:
I wanted to start this journey in the place where it all started for me. Soon, we will be inundated by the polls, the punditry, and prognostications, all the nonsense that goes with our national political campaigns. Well, none of that matters. This is the place that matters. Because everyday, children walk in to this schoolhouse to glimpse their futures, to ask for hope. They may not know they need it yet, but they do. And I’m here to tell you that hope is real. In a life of trials, in the world of challenges, hope is real. In a country where families go without health care, where some go without food, some don’t even have a home to speak of, hope is real. In a time of global chaos and instability where our faiths collide, as often as our weapons, hope is real. Hope is what gives us the courage to take on our greatest challenges, to move forward together. We live in cynical times, I know that. But hope is not up for debate. There is such a thing as false science, there is such a thing as false promises, I am sure I will have my share of false starts. But there is no such thing as false hope. There is only hope.
The final sentences instantly reminded me of No False Hope, a hope-fueled AIDS anthem from Romanovsky and Phillips (a fabulous singing duo whose music played a significant role in my coming out years).
There’s no denying many have died
Lives have been lost, tears have been cried
And there’s so much pain, and so little relief
That it’s hard to feel hope in our moment of grief
But if that’s what it takes to help someone live
Then we have a lot we can give.
Here’s my deal: I actually happen to believe there *is* such a thing as “false hope,” but I think the term is vastly overused and misapplied…too frequently hurled as a weapon when denigrating the long shot, worthy optimism that helps people to keep going in hard times.
And don’t get me wrong, we are living in hard times. For sure. I’ve held on to a distinction I picked up from Jon Stewart when he was wrapping up the amazing Rally to Restore Sanity way back in 2010–he reminded us that we’re living in hard times but not end times.
And you know what? Even if/when we are living in end times, I’m sure I want to be surrounded by people who, like me, are determined to rekindle whatever light is available.