Optimism is radical. It is the hard choice, the brave choice. And it is, it seems to me, most needed now, in the face of despair—just as a car is most useful when you have a distance to close. Otherwise it is a large, unmovable object parked in the garage.
These days, the safest way for someone to appear intelligent is being skeptical by default. We seem sophisticated when we say “we don’t believe” and disingenuous when we say “we do.”
History and fable have both proven that nothing is ever entirely lost. David can take Goliath. A beach in Normandy can turn the tide of war. Bravery can topple the powerful. These facts are often seen as exceptional, but they are not. Every day, we all become the balance of our choices—choices between love and fear, belief or despair. No hope is ever too small.
Optimism is our instinct to inhale while suffocating. Our need to declare what “needs to be” in the face of what is. Optimism is not uncool; it is rebellious and daring and vital.
The American writer Theodore Sturgeon once said: ”Ninety percent of everything is crap” and I believe he was right. But surely that also means that “Ten percent of everything is worth the damn effort.”
And so it goes time after time, choice after choice, that we decide to leave behind a biography or an epitaph. Look around you now and decide between the two.
Inhale or die.
See the 2019 Optimists issue, guest-edited by Ava DuVernay.