I am finding mustering hope for the future difficult. We’re living in a time made up of quilted existential crises’, whose impacts will be born by a public whose stitch unpickers have been confiscated. Walking around with that knowledge makes it an uncomfortable act to place my body into the futures our present asserts. At least I don’t feel alone in this. My sense is pop cultural optimisms have fallen out of favor, and for good reason, coming across too phony to young people, who see the long drag of a working life stretching out ahead of them. The height of the societal ledge the climate crisis has eroded makes facing ahead even more existential.
I’ve only recently given full thought to what it is that I wish for further than five or so years ahead. I summated my deepest desire as retiring before 70 with a bungalowed house or apartment with access to gardening space. It felt at once like an unattainable fantasy, and then – with further rumination – a prospect that seems between mostly and more than reasonable for the final chapters of one’s life.
I noticed within this aspiration a sense of deceitfully practical pessimism, one that squashes my hopes for the future into that which feels like it could be self created and sustained in a vacuum, separated from external conditions that may not be favorable. This is where the truest fallacy lies within my dream. This is how I knew I needed to consider learning to hold a functional sense of hope, as presumptions of widespread non livability were burying into my anchoring wishes.
Through what processes can a legitimate optimism be fostered? Learning more about that which terrifies me is my first tool, somewhat discordantly to the sensation itself. The further you specify your boogeymen, the easier they become to approach – I hope. There is also the benefit of discovering more posited solutions and people enacting them, although often there can be an empty quality to these, and the velocity of mainstream hegemonic adoption of their propositions can bely this.
Another tool is discussion, and – where meaningful – collaborative action. Talking about your worries sometimes feels overblown as a solution for mental health in a broken world, but I mean it less as a form of unburdening than as an exposure. Speaking with peers, or perhaps a professional in the topic, can accelerate trains of thought onwards and outwards into new spaces, bringing into light discordant or underdeveloped conclusions. This form of internal (yet social) development can help mitigate frustrations from our political stagnation that often aggrieves me the most out of anything. If and when productive actions appear viable to undergo, take them on, if possible with others. The company is greatly helpful for executing often subversive acts, for reasons of scale, support, and reflection.
My final tool is one of imagination. The action with which I began these considerations was envisioning with specificity – what exactly did I want my life to be like? The selfishness of this thought in a political context felt uncomfortable, but it is through the personal precision of the target that a carrot-like hope can grow. It also helped to identify which particular societal systems must be maintained or developed for the world I want to live in to be possible. There are a copious number of visions for the world at large, purported by characters of varying authority. To reach clarity on which are positive, introspecting your own desires can help make connections (and reveal internal incoherences, not all ambitions are valid or just!) between yourself and the prospective structures of the world.
Hope must now be taught, not dogmatically, but as with much of learning, through the provision of tools that allow for beliefs to be formed within and by the self. To believe in reconstitution, to envision and fight for systems that would mitigate or erase the burdens and traumas that repression and destruction are causing, we must attentively and strategically cultivate faith in the possibility of equitable worlds. For the sakes of our desired outcomes, as well as our own.
Endnote – The title of this article is an open-ended prompt. Additional or counter-thoughts, resource recommendations, or responses of most any kind are more than welcome to be sent to firstname.lastname@example.org.