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James Wanless

this is where I write

Hope and Optimism

2016 has been a bad year, both culturally and politically. It’s easy to be pessimistic and cynical if you allow yourself to be. I know I have ~ too much. However, I’ve also made a decision to try and let go of the crap I can’t change and try and improve the stuff I can. I’m hoping it’ll just take a little hope and optimism (and probably a lot of willpower).

There’s no way around it. From a broad perspective, at least in cultural and political terms, 2016 was a low point. Beginning with David Bowie, the list of obituaries for those who had some sort of impact on my life was astounding. Muhammed Ali, Prince, Morley Safer, Glenn Frey, Alan Rickman, Gene Wilder, Gary Shandling, Ron Glass … and that barely scratches the surface.

However, if there’s one certainty in life, it’s that we eventually all die and 2016 seemingly had far more than its share. I didn’t lose any family members or anyone close to me, so that’s something important.

Of significantly graver consequence to much of the planet was the international shitstorm of the continuing Syrian crisis, Brexit and the election of Donald Trump. These issues have been covered ad nauseum, so there’s little point rehashing the details of any of them here.

In the context of my thoughts, though, there’s a single word that ties them, and indeed many of the world’s problems, together. And that word is fear. Whether driving al-Assad to pummel innocent people into oblivion, or making British people vote to leave the EU and Americans vote for an unstable, immature egomaniac, to me it all comes down to fear. In fact, fear seems to be the prevailing thing that drives most reactive things.

The genesis of the Syrian war was the 2011 Arab uprising. Fearing he’d lose control of his country as he watched other regimes collapse, al-Assad waged war on the rebels, while not caring a whit how many citizens were killed or displaced. As of this writing, Aleppo is a battered pile of ruins, all because of one man’s fear.

Brexit and Trump were campaigns orchestrated to play on human fears. Driven by isms and phobias too numerous to mention, passing half-truths and complete fabrication off as fact, it all ends up in the same place. Telling economically or socially disenfranchised people repeatedly that they should be fearful of past change and its beneficiaries, it’s quite easy to sell the false hope that they’ll get back what they’ve lost by slowing and reversing that change.

Oddly enough, that last bit is my silver lining. If false hope can be sold to desperate people via lies and negativity, then surely real hope never leaves if we remain focused on facts and the logic and goodness of most people. In other words, if false hope and bullshit can win temporarily, real hope and optimism can still prevail long-term. It has to and I feel it ultimately always has.

Among the many things I’ve been examining about myself, cynicism and pessimism are how I deal with things more often than I’d like. Using just the three examples above, it’s not hard to see why. However, just as I’m focused on self-improvement through exploring creativity more, I’ve also decided I’m going to try to see the positives far more often, hard though that may be at times. As opposed to bemoaning and grumbling about the bad stuff, I’m hoping to take more action to change the the things I can and let go of the things I can’t.

Volunteering, more donating, becoming more of a glass half-full guy ~ in short, finding more ways to improve things through hope and optimism.

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