To be hopeful in bad times is not just foolishly romantic. It is based on the fact that human history is a history not only of cruelty, but also of compassion, sacrifice, courage, kindness.
What we choose to emphasize in this complex history will determine our lives. If we see only the worst, it destroys our capacity to do something. If we remember those times and places — and there are so many — where people have behaved magnificently, this gives us the energy to act, and at least the possibility of sending this spinning top of a world in a different direction.
And if we do act, in however small a way, we don’t have to wait for some grand utopian future. The future is an infinite succession of presents, and to live now as we think human beings should live, in defiance of all that is bad around us, is itself a marvelous victory.
It’s easy in these times to let ourselves fall prey to our darker emotions. From both sides of the political spectrum, we revert to anger and hatred, letting those emotions color our view of our every day lives. These dark emotions begin to crowd in on our lives, preventing us from witnessing the good that exists even during troubled times.
Our better qualities should not be swayed by external forces. True compassion and empathy is not subject to politics or prejudices.
But, as I said, it’s easy to fall prey to the darkness, to simmer in a stew of anger and fear. God knows, I have.
But I can’t live that way. I won’t live that way.
I need the joy. I need to smile and laugh. I need to feel quiet in my inner world. I need to feel the beauty of our humanity.
Anger takes those things from me and I will not have that.
Don’t get me wrong. This is not a submission to the events currently taking place. No, my anger remains. My will to resist and fight against those things that I see as simply wrong remains as strong as ever.
I just refuse to let darkness take over my life, to change who I am– or who I aspire to be– as a person.
And that, in its own way, is a small victory.
The piece at the top is a new piece, a small 2″ by 6″ painting on paper called “Maintaining Hope.” It is part of the upcoming Little Gems show, opening February 3 at the West End Gallery in Corning, NY.