March 9, 2010
Esteemed historian, activist, and teacher Howard Zinn died in January. In a newsletter I subscribe to, Nygaard Notes, I learned of a 2004 article of Zinn’s published in The Nation magazine entitled “The Optimism of Uncertainty.” The Optimism of Uncertainty could be another name for Tenacity notes! The Optimism of Not Knowing; The Optimism of Not Needing to Know; The Optimism of the Unknowable; The Optimism of the Great Mystery; The Optimism of Surrendering the Illusion That I Know…
Anyway, Nygaard quoted the closing words from that article:
“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.”
“If we see only the worst, it destroys our capacity to do something.” Doesn’t that make good sense?