“When spring came, even the false spring, there were no problems except where to be happiest. The only thing that could spoil a day was people and if you could keep from making engagements, each day had no limits. People were always the limiters of happiness except for the very few that were as good as spring itself.”
– Ernest Hemingway
The Wallflowers are playing and I think about the friends who just visited. It’s been many years since we saw each other, and yet they still have the same good hearts of our youth. We were speaking about the spaces that grow between people; that grow between our hearts and lives. We spend a time naïve, and then at some moment the world takes that away from us. And with the loss of naivety can sometimes come the death of optimism, and that is the real sad loss. Because optimism is the currency that keeps the world afloat. When we see reasons to believe in our fellow human beings we have hope that the world is better than it seems, and worth trying to make better still.
I knew a brave young woman who spent her life fighting for the good. She visited countries I wouldn’t dare to go, and she did it to lessen the pain of gender-based violence. After the attacks in Nice she was disillusioned, as we all are when we encounter tragedy. I, perhaps uncomfortable with how broken and raw that place feels now, hadn’t connected to those events before speaking to her. It was the blow to her optimism that moved me. That the world was so shit it could weigh the best of us down. It’s so easy to crumble under the oppression of its meanness. You can pick the tragedy that affects you most, because let’s face it; we’ve got a lot to choose from.
And isn’t that at least part of the problem? That we’ve become addicted to tragedy and misery? How much time do we spend on those things that uplift us? I’m talking of the stories which highlight the world being a place of incredible kindness, forgiveness, and community. The stories which focus on proposed solutions to the worlds’ diverse problems. How entirely underrepresented is hope in today’s media landscape? I hate arguing for optimism because I’ve become a jaded realist, but I see now that too is poison. To expect the worst in our fellow human beings is an action that pulls us all down.
Is our world really just a cesspool of violence, or is instead a wide and myriad tapestry, where people are learning how to live with themselves and one another? We have to tell different stories if we want a different world.
Maybe there’s something worth saving, and maybe if we deliberately try to turn down the everyday violence we perpetrate on one another, the world will get better. Maybe that’s really the only choice and way anything actually substantially changes. Maybe the first step is to be optimistic that there is beauty in the world, and that it will grow as we become younger in our hearts.