We are living in a world with many dangers, threats and uncertainties. And yet, panic, fear or depression would be the wrong answer. The only thing that really helps anyone is cautious optimism.
You may ask, how can you be optimistic? It is a legitimate question. On the surface, I seem to be worried about everything, be it Covid, Putin, Climate Change, political extremism, or whatever it may be. And yes, I am worried – but also optimistic.
Optimism doesn’t mean to throw caution to the wind. It doesn’t mean to trapse through the forest, Siegfried-like (or, if Wagner isn’t your thing, Hobbit-like), no concern in the world, a willing victim to the schemers and connivers of the world, be they called Hagen or Sauron. Danger lurks everywhere, but do we confront it with an attitude of careful and cautious optimism? Will we eventually slay the dragon or the beast and save the world?
Just a few examples: Contrary to naysayers, the pandemic is still going on. We are not quite out of this quagmire, but we are on the way. We have functioning vaccines, but we still need to figure out solutions to Long or Post-Covid, and functioning vaccines need to reach those who want and need them. We will beat this. Climate change is a massive challenge, but we will beat this too. Wars will end, democracy prevail, and our future will be bright. Wishful thinking? You bet. But hopefully with good reason.
Why am I so certain? Because otherwise, nothing would be done. We cannot afford to not be optimistic. Hope – careful, moderated hope – has to be our strategy. Not stupid hope, not hope without solutions other than to somehow tactically muddle through.
In Buffy the Vampire Slayer episode 3.09 “The Wish”, the demon Anyanka has created a parallel world in which evil triumphs. The librarian Rupert Giles believes to have found a way to undo this. Just as he proceeds with his plan, the demon confronts him: “You trusting fool! How do you know the other world is any better than this?” Giles replies: “Because it has to be.” This is what I mean.
Without hope, nothing will prosper. Without optimism, we have no reason to build the future. Without trust – primal trust in whatever you want to call it, God, the universe, science, humanity, nature – without this basic trust, we could not move forward. Hope dies last. Hopefully, it will outlast us – and carry us through this mess.
As the angels said to the shepherds, “fear not.” If there is any core to religion, it is this. “Fear Not.” Whether you believe or not, whether you are Christian or not, this message of Christmas is the message that deeply spiritual people all over the world know very well. Whatever tomorrow may bring, there will be a tomorrow. Things will work out. We all matter. We are not insignificant. We are part of something greater than us, and we have all we need to make this work out – but, conversely, it is also indeed up to us to build the future. Let’s get to it.