“I have great faith in optimism as a guiding principle, if only because it offers us the opportunity of creating a self-fulfilling prophecy. So I hope we’ve learnt something from the most barbaric century in history – the 20th. I would like to see us overcome our tribal divisions and begin to think and act as if we were one family. That would be real globalization…” – Arthur C. Clarke
I hadn’t realized until I heard this quotation about optimism as a guiding principles how self-conscious I am about my belief in the potential for our civilization to live in such a way that we make the most of what we have here on earth with regard to potential and creativity while enjoying and preserving the extent of wonder and amazingness that’s here.
If there were a guiding principle that I wish I had the courage to live by and say I live by (as distinct from the ones I actually admit) it’d be that there is enough diversity of intellect and preference among us that we could all lives lives full of vitality and connection with our surroundings and capacities, while still getting done what needs to get done for survival. The tradition that scoffs at optimism as a guiding principle is the same one that tells us childhood should be a time of protected innocence but should also prepare us for an adult life of sacrificing what we find engaging and beguiling for the drudgery of survival.
I’m often met with a “must be nice” sentiment when I speak of such things, and as defensive as I feel when I hear it, I think it’s exactly right and true, but maybe not in the way intended. For many people, most people, getting from one day to the next is a trial, and to suggest we aspire to something beyond that can land as an insult or a dishonoring of struggle and reality. There is privilege, of all kinds, in the freedom to imagine that we could experience the world another way. But could there be any better use for privilege than to imagine and attempt to usher in a reality and possibility of existence, for everyone, that would give wider access to what the privileged enjoy in the way of freedom to imagine and live for something other than drudgery?