This is part of #theimpossible series
The Impossible Will Take A Little While, Chapter 6, Howard Zinn on “The Optimism of Uncertainty”
Somewhat ironically, I took a week off from this project because I was overwhelmed by a sense of not-exactly-hopelessness, but some sort of meaninglessness. Perhaps I would have felt better sooner if I had stuck with my reading but every time I picked up the book I put it back down without even opening it. (I think Twitter’s dominant vibe is bad for my mental health.)
But I’m glad I tried reading again this morning. This entry marks the second part of the book, “Dark Before the Dawn.” Oh, how appropriate!
And Zinn is good:
“I am totally confident not that the world will get better, but that only confidence can prevent people from giving up the game before all the cards have been played … Not to play is to foreclose any chance of winning. To play, to act, is to create at least a possibility of changing the world.”
“Don’t look for a moment of total triumph. See engagement as an ongoing struggle, with victories and defeats, but in the long run slow progress. So you need patience and persistence. Understand that even when you don’t ‘win,’ there is fun and fulfilment in the fact that you have been involved, with other good people, in something worthwhile … The bad things that happen are repetitions of bad things that have always happened–war, racism, maltreatment of women, religious and nationalist fanaticism, starvation. The good things that happen are unexpected. Unexpected, and yet explainable by certain truths that spring at us from time to time, but which we tend to forget … Revolutionary change does not come as one cataclysmic moment (beware of such moments!) but as an endless succession of surprises, moving zigzag toward a more decent society … The future is an infinite succession of presents, and to live now as we think human beings should live, in defiance of all that is bad around us, is itself a marvellous victory.”
Hear hear! It’s so easy to feel as though everything is getting worse every day, but I know that isn’t actually true. Every day that I spend with the sheep and ducks, under a blue sky and surrounded by a green valley, I know what is good and true. Every chat with my best friend reminds me of what’s beautiful and important. And more often than I tend to recognise, I’m struck by the kindness and generosity of others.
While mindfulness has been co-opted by capitalist institutions as a path to productive wellness, I find myself returning to the Jesuit examen. Dennis Hamm, SJ, calls it “rummaging for God” but it may as well be called “recognising hope.” I like it because it gives space to anger and pain and fear, but won’t allow me to dwell there too long. Darkness is everywhere, but so is light.