I Sure Hope So.

Posted by admin on September 19, 2016 in Life Lessons |

I used to be one of the most pessimistic people on this planet. When I was in my twenties and thirties, I could have won the Lottery and still found something to bitch about. I could find something wrong about everything.

As I look back at this part of my life, I like to see myself looking a bit like Joe Btfsplk. For those of you who aren’t comic strip fans, he was a character in Lil’ Abner comics who walked around with a dark rain cloud perpetually over his head.

To be fair, Joe’s cloud was a symbol of the misfortune that followed him everywhere. For me, the cloud represents my uncanny ability to find doom and gloom where others only experienced sunny days.

I can only imagine how taxing I must have been to be around then. Not only was I a bit of a doom and gloomer, but I could inject worry into nearly everyone. I could get others to worry about things that couldn’t possibly ever happen, but my sales job was so good, so thorough, that it sounded entirely plausible.

I suppose it was my own unhappiness that made me so dour. As they say, misery loves company and I was as miserable as anyone could be. So why not share that misery amongst the masses?

And then this turning point came. I’d like to say it was the anti-depressants I was on, but I don’t think that’s the case. Nor was it an absence of disasters in my own life. They were actually thick as thieves at the time, from a car that taunted me at every turn with a new mechanical problem to a failing marriage where I was the only who seemed to notice or care that it was going down the dumper.

Perhaps that low point is what finally gave me hope. Maybe reaching the bottom left me nowhere to go. Or maybe it really was the Xanax that was finally kicking in at the right time as I imagined my own doom and gloom scenarios in breathtaking Cinemascope.

I will never truly know. But what I do know is that I gained hope then. I had one of those moments like the Grinch had as he stood on Mt. Crumpit. My shriveled heart grew in size that day, for I began to fill with unbridled hope about the future.

Not just my future. But the future of everyone and the future of the world at large.

I know a lot of people seem to be losing hope. I’m not really sure why. We’ve survived the Great Recession, we’re not all standing in soup lines, we are seeing amazing innovations arriving daily, and even some once fatal diseases are being beaten back by new research and treatments.

Yes, I know that we have a racial divide. I know children go hungry at night in our country. I know the middle class is getting squeezed on all sides. And I certainly know that tens of thousands of Americans are homeless.

And yet, I have almost unbridled hope. I am still amazed that we could, in just eight short years – the term of a single re-elected president – go from knowing next to nothing about space exploration to putting a man on the moon.

We have the same power in us to solve the greatest problems our world faces today. We have the power to eradicate starvation and disease around the world. We are on the precipice of finding a cure for cancer, and we are learning to harness information at levels no one can even imagine, connecting one another in a single chain of knowledge, know-how and ideation.

What is there not to be hopeful about? As I said, we do have our problems. Being hopeful doesn’t mean you turn a blind eye toward them and pretend they aren’t there or aren’t important. They are.

But hope lets us all believe as individuals and as a nation that we can fix every problem if we only muster the desire and collective spirit to tackle it like we did the moon.

Nearly a half million people worked on that singular problem. When Kennedy made the promise to land a man on the moon and return him safely to earth, we had a total of 15 minutes in spaceflight to our credit – suborbital at that.

But we rose to the challenge in a time when computers took up entire buildings and calculations had to be done on a slide rule. We didn’t know anything about docking, maneuvering, spacewalks – nothing.

And yet we landed on the moon just eight years later.

I like to think that our better days, like those days, are ahead of us, not behind us. But we’re not going to do anything great while reveling in pessimism and longing for the good old days.

We really need to get off our collective butts. We have to remember that this is the world we are leaving behind to our children and grandchildren. That we (and I can only speak for the Boomers here, my generation) were the ones who were going to make the world a better place to live, we were going to eliminate pollution, in racial harmony and make wars a distant memory.

I hope we haven’t given up on all this. I hope we’re not becoming a society of old and bitter men and women, ones resigned to leaving a world behind where none of our promises were made true, where things are actually worse than they were, all because we lost sight of our bold vision and hope, embracing hopelessness and despair in their place.

I for one will continue to believe that tomorrow will be better than today. I will continue to try to convince you of it as well. Hope is the light that flames the candle of our hearts, minds and souls. We can’t let it be extinguished, at least not without a fight. We must fight the good fight until the end. And if we do only one thing with our lives, it’s to leave our children and our children’s children with the hope we once had, hope that the future is brighter than the past.

In the Emerald City, lighting the next candle and passing it down,

  • Robb

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