As often told here and elsewhere I acquired the dream of being a writer at an early age. Scifi became an early objective. By the time I had experienced Vietnam and read much of Kurt Vonnegut’s work, dark humor had become a more likely focus. Watergate made that notion all the more likely. Still, I began a quest for a means to make the world a better place than those innocence destroyers, those illusion dispellers left me with as a cynical idealist. Easier said than done. I found no answer to regain a positive perspective or hopeful outlook. At least not until I encountered the philosophy of Nichiren Buddhism. That’s all detailed in Waiting for Westmoreland, a memoir published several years ago now. But this post isn’t about my faith, it’s about an article I read on Brain Pickings by Maria Popova, from which I cadged and modified the title of my own post:
Some thoughts on Hope, Cynicism and the Stories We Tell Ourselves
Here is what she says, in part
“To live with sincerity in our culture of cynicism is a difficult dance — one that comes easily only to the very young and the very old. The rest of us are left to tussle with two polarizing forces ripping the psyche asunder by beckoning to it from opposite directions — critical thinking and hope.
Critical thinking without hope is cynicism. Hope without critical thinking is naïveté.
Finding fault and feeling hopeless about improving the situation produces resignation — cynicism is both resignation’s symptom and a futile self-protection mechanism against it. Blindly believing that everything will work out just fine also produces resignation, for we have no motive to apply ourselves toward making things better. But in order to survive — both as individuals and as a civilization — and especially in order to thrive, we need the right balance of critical thinking and hope.”
Popova goes on to establish the task of storytellers, a group among which I count myself at least at times, to make things better.
What storytellers do — and this includes journalists and TED and everyone in between who has a point of view and an audience, whatever its size — is help shape our stories of how the world works; at their very best, they can empower our moral imagination to envision how the world could work better. In other words, they help us mediate between the ideal and the real by cultivating the right balance of critical thinking and hope.
I want to see myself, this site and my writing generally–as much as I can, to be congruent with this quote Popova cites from E.B. White,
“[W]riters do not merely reflect and interpret life, they inform and shape life”; that the role of the writer is “to lift people up, not lower them down.”
Read the article. It will make you think–think better thoughts.