Finding hope in the world today
Worried about global warming? The acidification of our oceans? D4 (the highest-known level) droughts in the U.S. today? The idea that palm oil biodiesel might be worse than fossil fuels? A Republican plan to rewrite the Official Secrets Act to make talking to the press about government foul-ups a crime?
Well, you have reason to worry. But not to despair, as environmental writer and hero Barry Lopez points out in a terrific interview with Christian Miller in the latest issue of the Georgia Review:
MILLER: I have one final question. I wonder whether you, and this particular book, are ultimately hopeful? How does one cultivate hope when, as you recently wrote, “To read the newspapers today, to merely answer the phone, is to know the world is in flames”?
LOPEZ: I’m hopeful but not optimistic. The mind deals with optimism in an analytic way; it analyzes the data and then decides “I’m optimistic or pessimistic.” The imagination, on the other hand, considers all the data and reinvests itself again in hope. The imagination believes in its own power to see what it’s never seen before. It’s not constrained by analysis.
So I get downcast, but I remain hopeful, and I think [my new book of short stories] Resistance is hopeful. Its allegiance is to the imagination and to acts of imagination, and this is what tyrants most fear. They fear acts of imagination because they threaten the tyrant’s control of reality. The book, I think, is also a kind of defense of the political imagination. It’s saying, “We will give the tyrant neither our bodies nor our imaginations. We will not cease looking into these matters. And the tyrant won’t know where we are. We’ll turn up in some dark basement somewhere, like a light going on.”