Reasons for hope, part 1

An excellent question, from comments:

Is there any reason for hope? … What is there to be hopeful about?

I think everyone has asked that question at some point. If you haven’t, then you should have — it’s one of the most important questions there is.

And it’s a question that calls for more than one answer. Or maybe for one big answer in many, many parts.

Here’s one part:

That video is from Plant With Purpose, originally Floresta, a Christian relief and development agency that plants trees. Their work is a bit more complicated than that — helping to develop sustainable communities in sustainable environments. But basically what it boils down to is that they plant trees.

Many people think of poverty and the environment as separate issues, but in fact they are hugely interdependent. Most of the world’s poor are rural poor. Many are subsistence farmers, completely dependent on their environment for survival. But as a result of widespread deforestation, the land isn’t providing like it used to.

Land that once bore bountiful crops that could be sold or eaten, isn’t producing. Streams that used to provide water to drink, now run dry. Out of desperation, the poor cut down more trees to sell as firewood, even though doing so means further destroying their one chance of survival.

By reversing deforestation, Plant With Purpose helps the poor restore productivity to their land to create economic opportunity out of environmental restoration. Since 1984 we have helped thousands of people in nearly 250 villages lift themselves out of poverty through our holistic approach to sustainable development.

Tree-planting seems like a good first place to look in search of reasons for hope. Every reason for hope seems to parallel the process of planting trees. It starts with something tiny that grows into something large and beneficial that will likely outlive the person who got it started.

In the past 27 years, Plant With Purpose has planted nearly 7 million trees in Haiti, Tanzania, Burundi, Thailand, the Dominican Republic and Mexico. Those countries might not be the first places you’d think of if you were looking for something to be hopeful about, but here is something tangibly better than it was.

X + 7 million trees > X. That gives me hope.

You can donate to Plant With Purpose, of course, or to some other nonsectarian tree-planting agency if you prefer, and that’s a really Good Thing to do. But my point here isn’t to drum up donations.

My point here is that this is happening. Trees are being planted and good news is growing among the poor. Right now, this is happening.

Bad things are happening too, of course. The bastards who profit from injustice have power, influence and deep pockets. Injustice seems to have both momentum and inertia on its side. But off camera, off the front page and out of the spotlight, trees are being planted and lives are being improved.

The question “What is there to be hopeful about?” usually comes when we feel like whatever it is we’re doing isn’t enough — it’s too small, or not working fast enough, or it’s underfunded, exhausting, exhausted, too little, too late. But look at that video and remember that whatever it is you’re doing isn’t the only thing being done. You’re doing your part, others are doing theirs. It adds up. Trees are being planted.

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  • http://brandiweed.livejournal.com/ Brandi

    Alan, Rhiadra, and the like, a short bit of advice for you: down the road, not across the street.

  • Anonymous

    Brandi, next time you’re going to do something that appalling, at least warn us that you’re making a suicide joke.

  • http://mistformsquirrel.deviantart.com/ JJohnson

    Brandi – let me explain this gently because I don’t want to whack you a rhetorical mallet here, but…

    That’s really kind of a jackass thing to say.  Understand that more than a few of us have stood on that edge.  Depression, be it genetic (as mine is), or situational, is a serious problem.

    I’m not kidding when I say that I would be dead if not for my best friend’s words and actions – suicide to me is not an abstract concept, it’s something I was || close to going through on.  I’m not  alone in this; and it’s entirely probable that at least one person reading this thread is still struggling through.

    I know the whole ‘lol emo kids’ thing is popular;  but depression is real, it’s unfortunately quite powerful as well.

    Basically it’s insensitive and unnecessary.

    *If nothing else it solves nothing.

  • http://brandiweed.livejournal.com/ Brandi

    Alan, Rhiadra, and the like, a short bit of advice for you: down the road, not across the street.

  • Anonymous

    Brandi, next time you’re going to do something that appalling, at least warn us that you’re making a suicide joke.

  • http://mistformsquirrel.deviantart.com/ JJohnson

    Brandi – let me explain this gently because I don’t want to whack you with a rhetorical mallet here, but…

    That’s really kind of a jackass thing to say.  Understand that more than a few of us have stood on that edge.  Depression, be it genetic (as mine is), or situational, is a serious problem.

    I’m not kidding when I say that I would be dead if not for my best friend’s words and actions – suicide to me is not an abstract concept, it’s something I was || close to going through on.  I’m not  alone in this; and it’s entirely probable that at least one person reading this thread is still struggling through.

    I know the whole ‘lol emo kids’ thing is popular;  but depression is real, it’s unfortunately quite powerful as well.

    Basically it’s insensitive and unnecessary.

  • Sgt. Pepper’s Bleeding Heart

    Bad things are happening too, of course. The bastards who profit from injustice have power, influence and deep pockets. Injustice seems to have both momentum and inertia on its side. But off camera, off the front page and out of the spotlight, trees are being planted and lives are being improved.

    I heard a homily once on the parable of the wheat and the tares that made this point: the wheat and the tares both grow. There’s lot of evil but it’s never all there is. That’s what I have hope in.

  • Sgt. Pepper’s Bleeding Heart

    Bad things are happening too, of course. The bastards who profit from injustice have power, influence and deep pockets. Injustice seems to have both momentum and inertia on its side. But off camera, off the front page and out of the spotlight, trees are being planted and lives are being improved.

    I heard a homily once on the parable of the wheat and the tares that made this point: the wheat and the tares both grow. There’s lot of evil but it’s never all there is. That’s what I have hope in.

  • Anonymous

    I think it’s important to remember the lesson of Pandora’s box.  Specifically, that there was a REASON that Hope was in the box- the Greeks considered it a bad thing, because it was a lie.  

    Having spent the past few years hoping for one thing after another, only to see my hopes dashed- yeah, it is a bad thing. If I’d never had those dizzying moments of hope and prospect, the inevitable failure wouldn’t have hurt so much. 
    I dunno- I don’t see life as an automatically good thing. I have no particular desire to be alive, but, for external reasons, I can’t just whack myself.    But this place seems pretty much like a miserable vale of tears where the biggest hope we’ve gotten in the last century is that we won’t annihilate ourselves with nuclear weapons.  The world sucks. The world has always sucked, except for a few people, and the world will always suck, except for a few people. That’s not something that can be changed, and, frankly, I’m more content on the sidelines.

    I went through a long period of “YEAH! GONNA CHANGE THE FUCKIN’ WORLD!”  And you know what?   I was miserable. Because something always sucks for someone somewhere. There’s people starving in the Horn of Africa RIGHT NOW OMG.

    There’s been people starving in the Horn of Africa for half a million years.

    And when there weren’t people starving in the Horn of Africa, it was the Mongolian Steppes, or the Great Plains, or somewhere else.And, as I studied history more and more, I realized- it has always been this way. Always. The same complaints, the same worries, the same problems. Even nuclear war wasn’t anything new- it was just the fear of “Someone’s gonna come over the horizon and kill us all!” writ large.  So- I stopped caring. Some will die. Some will thrive.   There’s very little I can do about it either way, and frankly, I don’t care no more.   

    And then I started looking around at the people who were most worried about others, and you know what? They weren’t happy. Every day, they looked around and they saw some new horror in the world and they got all worked up about it and did this and that and the other thing, only to discover a new problem the next day and get all upset….Eh. It’s pointless.  The world has some good stuff and some bad stuff. Try to avoid the bad stuff, and work on your own problems.

  • chris the cynic

    I think it’s important to remember the lesson of Pandora’s box.  Specifically, that there was a REASON that Hope was in the box- the Greeks considered it a bad thing, because it was a lie.

    Doesn’t that depend on the version of the myth we’re talking about?  Yeah, they agree that Hope was in the jar, and that she was the last one out if she even got out at all, but whether she was good or bad really depends on the storyteller as near as I can tell.

  • hapax

    The world sucks. The world has always sucked, except for a few people,
    and the world will always suck, except for a few people. That’s not
    something that can be changed, and, frankly, I’m more content on the
    sidelines.

    I understand that feeling, and am inclined that way myself sometimes. 

    But…

    Y’know what?  Over at the ‘verse, Mmy posted about the fact that in the US, diapers aren’t covered by food stamps or WIC, and that some people have started “diaper banks” to help poor families obtain these absolutely necessary but awfully expensive basic items.

    She linked to one such network:  http://www.helpamotherout.org/organization-list/

    And several people immediately said “Wow.  That sucks.”  And we started e-mailing and calling our local food banks and shelters: do you accept donations of disposable diapers?  If not, who does?  How can we start a diaper bank in our area?

    No, this isn’t going to stop starvation in the Horn of Africa.  It isn’t going to stop global climate change.  It won’t prevent cruel politicians being elected or oppressive policies from being enacted.  It isn’t going to get anybody a job.

    But because one person bothered to stand up and say “This is wrong”;  and a few others said, “You’re right, now is there anything *I* can do?” and spent a couple minutes on the phone or the keyboard…

    Well, maybe in a few weeks there will be infants with dry bottoms, and parents who didn’t have to go without food or medicine or car repairs or something else to get there.

    It is hard not to be overwhelmed by the ocean.  But I have to try and focus on THAT PARTICULAR starfish on the beach…

  • chris the cynic

    But I have to try and focus on THAT PARTICULAR starfish on the beach…

    This is my version of the starfish story (as told by a character from a broken Antichrist ruled demon infested world, but that really doesn’t show up much in that post.)

    I bring this up not just because I exist in a constant state of self promotion, but also because I wonder about other people’s version of choice.  There isn’t really a standard version.  For anyone who has one, what is your preferred version?

    Or, for anyone who, like me, wrote one, care to share your version?

  • Lonespark

    Is this a good place to tell you how awesome your Discworld fic is?

  • Imaginary Conservative

    Yay, apathy!  It hurts SO MUCH LESS than doing something!

    :-P

    “There’s no point in being a pessimist.  It probably won’t help.”

  • Diona the Lurker

    The problem I have with this is that, even if it’s true that one’s attempts to help people can’t change the world at large, they may at least help one person. Viewing humanity as a faceless mass of suffering tends to obscure this, I think.

    Diona the Lurker

  • Anonymous

    I think it’s important to remember the lesson of Pandora’s box.  Specifically, that there was a REASON that Hope was in the box- the Greeks considered it a bad thing, because it was a lie.  

    Having spent the past few years hoping for one thing after another, only to see my hopes dashed- yeah, it is a bad thing. If I’d never had those dizzying moments of hope and prospect, the inevitable failure wouldn’t have hurt so much. 
    I dunno- I don’t see life as an automatically good thing. I have no particular desire to be alive, but, for external reasons, I can’t just whack myself.    But this place seems pretty much like a miserable vale of tears where the biggest hope we’ve gotten in the last century is that we won’t annihilate ourselves with nuclear weapons.  The world sucks. The world has always sucked, except for a few people, and the world will always suck, except for a few people. That’s not something that can be changed, and, frankly, I’m more content on the sidelines.

    I went through a long period of “YEAH! GONNA CHANGE THE FUCKIN’ WORLD!”  And you know what?   I was miserable. Because something always sucks for someone somewhere. There’s people starving in the Horn of Africa RIGHT NOW OMG.

    There’s been people starving in the Horn of Africa for half a million years.

    And when there weren’t people starving in the Horn of Africa, it was the Mongolian Steppes, or the Great Plains, or somewhere else.And, as I studied history more and more, I realized- it has always been this way. Always. The same complaints, the same worries, the same problems. Even nuclear war wasn’t anything new- it was just the fear of “Someone’s gonna come over the horizon and kill us all!” writ large.  So- I stopped caring. Some will die. Some will thrive.   There’s very little I can do about it either way, and frankly, I don’t care no more.   

    And then I started looking around at the people who were most worried about others, and you know what? They weren’t happy. Every day, they looked around and they saw some new horror in the world and they got all worked up about it and did this and that and the other thing, only to discover a new problem the next day and get all upset….Eh. It’s pointless.  The world has some good stuff and some bad stuff. Try to avoid the bad stuff, and work on your own problems.

  • http://stealingcommas.blogspot.com/ chris the cynic

    I think it’s important to remember the lesson of Pandora’s box.  Specifically, that there was a REASON that Hope was in the box- the Greeks considered it a bad thing, because it was a lie.

    Doesn’t that depend on the version of the myth we’re talking about?  Yeah, they agree that Hope was in the jar, and that she was the last one out if she even got out at all, but whether she was good or bad really depends on the storyteller as near as I can tell.

  • hapax

    The world sucks. The world has always sucked, except for a few people,
    and the world will always suck, except for a few people. That’s not
    something that can be changed, and, frankly, I’m more content on the
    sidelines.

    I understand that feeling, and am inclined that way myself sometimes. 

    But…

    Y’know what?  Over at the ‘verse, Mmy posted about the fact that in the US, diapers aren’t covered by food stamps or WIC, and that some people have started “diaper banks” to help poor families obtain these absolutely necessary but awfully expensive basic items.

    She linked to one such network:  http://www.helpamotherout.org/organization-list/

    And several people immediately said “Wow.  That sucks.”  And we started e-mailing and calling our local food banks and shelters: do you accept donations of disposable diapers?  If not, who does?  How can we start a diaper bank in our area?

    No, this isn’t going to stop starvation in the Horn of Africa.  It isn’t going to stop global climate change.  It won’t prevent cruel politicians being elected or oppressive policies from being enacted.  It isn’t going to get anybody a job.

    But because one person bothered to stand up and say “This is wrong”;  and a few others said, “You’re right, now is there anything *I* can do?” and spent a couple minutes on the phone or the keyboard…

    Well, maybe in a few weeks there will be infants with dry bottoms, and parents who didn’t have to go without food or medicine or car repairs or something else to get there.

    It is hard not to be overwhelmed by the ocean.  But I have to try and focus on THAT PARTICULAR starfish on the beach…

  • http://stealingcommas.blogspot.com/ chris the cynic

    But I have to try and focus on THAT PARTICULAR starfish on the beach…

    This is my version of the starfish story (as told by a character from a broken Antichrist ruled demon infested world, but that really doesn’t show up much in that post.)

    I bring this up not just because I exist in a constant state of self promotion, but also because I wonder about other people’s version of choice.  There isn’t really a standard version.  For anyone who has one, what is your preferred version?

    Or, for anyone who, like me, wrote one, care to share your version?

  • Lonespark

    Is this a good place to tell you how awesome your Discworld fic is?

  • Imaginary Conservative

    Yay, apathy!  It hurts SO MUCH LESS than doing something!

    :-P

    “There’s no point in being a pessimist.  It probably won’t help.”

  • Diona the Lurker

    The problem I have with this is that, even if it’s true that one’s attempts to help people can’t change the world at large, they may at least help one person. Viewing humanity as a faceless mass of suffering tends to obscure this, I think.

    Diona the Lurker

  • MaryKaye

    One pragmatic difficulty with being anti-hope is that, in my experience, it makes you attack people who are actively trying to do good, because they cause you pain whenever they come to your attention.  

    I knew someone who would never let me go by with a reusable cup or something to recycle without verbally harassing me about how useless it was–how recycling costs more resources than throwing things away, how compost doesn’t actually help with global warming, how what I was doing was a stupid drop in the bucket, etc, etc.  The complaints were so consistent and so emphatic, it was hard not to feel that he saw my recycling as a personal attack.

    You don’t want to get yourself into a place where other peoples’ good deeds come across as personal attacks. 

  • MaryKaye

    One pragmatic difficulty with being anti-hope is that, in my experience, it makes you attack people who are actively trying to do good, because they cause you pain whenever they come to your attention.  

    I knew someone who would never let me go by with a reusable cup or something to recycle without verbally harassing me about how useless it was–how recycling costs more resources than throwing things away, how compost doesn’t actually help with global warming, how what I was doing was a stupid drop in the bucket, etc, etc.  The complaints were so consistent and so emphatic, it was hard not to feel that he saw my recycling as a personal attack.

    You don’t want to get yourself into a place where other peoples’ good deeds come across as personal attacks. 

  • Anonymous

    nth-ing the thanks, Fred. I think I am going to bookmark this post.

    Hope isn’t a, a “How is this helping us,” on a personal feel-good level or a doing-more-stuff level, it’s just something… ye gods, I am not going to be able to put this into words. But I’m going to try anyway, because you all seem to have managed fair well. …And right on cue, my brain wakes up to the fact that iTunes has decided to play “Badlands,” and the words are right there.

    Talk about a dream; try to make it real.
    You wake up in the night with a fear so real.
    You spend your life waiting for a moment that just don’t come.
    Well don’t waste your time waiting

    Badlands you gotta live it every day
    Let the broken hearts stand
    As the price you’ve gotta pay
    We’ll keep pushin’ till it’s understood
    And these badlands start treating us good

    It’s one of those songs that’s in the Rules for me, when I’m walking. No matter where I am, no matter how my throat is, no matter what, I sing it.

  • Anonymous

    nth-ing the thanks, Fred. I think I am going to bookmark this post.

    Hope isn’t a, a “How is this helping us,” on a personal feel-good level or a doing-more-stuff level, it’s just something… ye gods, I am not going to be able to put this into words. But I’m going to try anyway, because you all seem to have managed fair well. …And right on cue, my brain wakes up to the fact that iTunes has decided to play “Badlands,” and the words are right there.

    Talk about a dream; try to make it real.
    You wake up in the night with a fear so real.
    You spend your life waiting for a moment that just don’t come.
    Well don’t waste your time waiting

    Badlands you gotta live it every day
    Let the broken hearts stand
    As the price you’ve gotta pay
    We’ll keep pushin’ till it’s understood
    And these badlands start treating us good

    It’s one of those songs that’s in the Rules for me, when I’m walking. No matter where I am, no matter how my throat is, no matter what, I sing it.

  • Anonymous

    nth-ing the thanks, Fred. I think I am going to bookmark this post.

    Hope isn’t a, a “How is this helping us,” on a personal feel-good level or a doing-more-stuff level, it’s just something… ye gods, I am not going to be able to put this into words. But I’m going to try anyway, because you all seem to have managed fair well. …And right on cue, my brain wakes up to the fact that iTunes has decided to play “Badlands,” and the words are right there.

    Talk about a dream; try to make it real.
    You wake up in the night with a fear so real.
    You spend your life waiting for a moment that just don’t come.
    Well don’t waste your time waiting

    Badlands you gotta live it every day
    Let the broken hearts stand
    As the price you’ve gotta pay
    We’ll keep pushin’ till it’s understood
    And these badlands start treating us good

    It’s one of those songs that’s in the Rules for me, when I’m walking. No matter where I am, no matter how my throat is, no matter what, I sing it.

  • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_NYIMSCWWLA5XTAYXL3FXNCJZ7I Kiba

    Hope. Is it a curse or a blessing? I dunno. Maybe it’s both.
    If you go into something hoping that you will change the world and all of its
    problems I can see hope being a curse. Every problem leads to the next and
    another one after that, and after that, and….It can become too much. Too much
    suffering to ever be fixed. And even if one problem is solved, or one person’s
    suffering is diminished, you still feel like a failure because countless others
    are still drowning in the sea of suffering and you know that no matter what you
    do you can’t help them all. You have failed.

     

    But have you really? Or has your reach simply exceeded your
    grasp? We learn through mistakes, through failure, and maybe the lesson here is
    that singularly, or even in small groups, we can’t change the world as a whole
    (not without changing ourselves first), but we can still change it in small
    ways. In that way hope can be a good thing. Hope that at least in some way I
    can make a difference even if it is only in one person’s life and that that one
    life makes a difference. And it does.

     

    What it boils down to is finding the balance, the middle
    ground, and doing what you can.

     

    I think the main problem with hope is that we see imperfectly
    both past and future and that tends to encourage despair. But however
    imperfectly we see the past we can see that some things have changed for the
    better; that some actions/beliefs that were accepted and encouraged are now
    frowned upon and discouraged even if they haven’t been entirely removed. As a
    species we learn slowly and imperfectly, but we do learn. And that gives me
    hope; hope that no matter how much we fail, we tend to fail upward. **I’m not sure if this makes sense. I hope (no pun intended) that it does.**

  • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_NYIMSCWWLA5XTAYXL3FXNCJZ7I Kiba

    Hope. Is it a curse or a blessing? I dunno. Maybe it’s both.
    If you go into something hoping that you will change the world and all of its
    problems I can see hope being a curse. Every problem leads to the next and
    another one after that, and after that, and….It can become too much. Too much
    suffering to ever be fixed. And even if one problem is solved, or one person’s
    suffering is diminished, you still feel like a failure because countless others
    are still drowning in the sea of suffering and you know that no matter what you
    do you can’t help them all. You have failed.

    But have you really? Or has your reach simply exceeded your
    grasp? We learn through mistakes, through failure, and maybe the lesson here is
    that singularly, or even in small groups, we can’t change the world as a whole
    (not without changing ourselves first), but we can still change it in small
    ways. In that way hope can be a good thing. Hope that at least in some way I
    can make a difference even if it is only in one person’s life and that that one
    life makes a difference. And it does.

    What it boils down to is finding the balance, the middle ground, and doing what you can.
     
    I think the main problem with hope is that we see imperfectly
    both past and future and that tends to encourage despair. But however
    imperfectly we see the past we can see that some things have changed for the
    better; that some actions/beliefs that were accepted and encouraged are now
    frowned upon and discouraged even if they haven’t been entirely removed. As a
    species we learn slowly and imperfectly, but we do learn. And that gives me
    hope; hope that no matter how much we fail, we tend to fail upward.

     **I’m not sure if this makes sense. I hope (no pun intended) that it does.**

  • Lori

     The world sucks. The world has always sucked, except for a few people, and the world will always suck, except for a few people. 

    If I hate a dollar for every time I’ve heard someone express this sentiment, often in exactly these words, my financial problems would be solved. I always find myself asking the same question—the world sucks compared to what? So far this world is it for humanity. At some point we will almost certainly develop the capacity to move off this planet, but we’re not there yet and likely won’t get there in my lifetime. Many people believe that we go someplace else after we die and leave this world, but there’s no actual proof of that. For all practical purposes, this is it. So, what’s the point of comparison? 

    Sure, we can all think of an ideal world that would be better than this one, but is that really a valid comparison? When I was 8 or 9 years old I was sure that I wanted to live in Willy Wonka’s chocolate factory. That was not possible because,among other reasons, neither Willy nor his factory actually exist. That does not mean that I had a lousy childhood. I know I’m being a bit glib, but seriously, we literally have no realistic comparison to make because this world is all there is. 

    We can compare this time to other points in time. Are things better, worse or about the same as they’ve been in the past? I think one has to try very hard to answer “about the same” and has to twist the facts beyond recognition to answer ‘worse”. 

    We can speculate on whether the future will be better, worse or about the same than the present, but that’s all it is—speculation. Unless you are a hardcore fatalist the future isn’t set. It’s not like life is a book and we just haven’t read up to those pages yet. What we do now helps determine what then will be. It doesn’t fully determine it. Some things have been set in motion by past actions that can’t be entirely changed and chance is always a factor. Still, we aren’t helpless. 

    Is the world the best we could possibly make it? It depends on how you define “possibly”, but I thinks it’s fair to answer that no, we’re not doing as well as we could. We’re also not doing as badly as we very easily could, and recently have. Does that really equal suckage? At the very least I’d say that, “The world sucks” is never more than a statement of opinion, and I find myself wondering again why people feel the need to state this opinion as fact to someone actively looking for reason to hope. 

    That’s not something that can be changed, and, frankly, I’m more content on the sidelines.  

    Well, good for you. If it makes you happy that’s fine. At the same time, the one thing we can be pretty sure of is that if everyone does this things will get worse. I understand if you weren’t able to find a balance between actively worrying about every problem and not worry about any problem, but what works for one person will, on a large enough scale, pretty well doom us. 

  • Lori

     The world sucks. The world has always sucked, except for a few people, and the world will always suck, except for a few people. 

    If I had a dollar for every time I’ve heard someone express this sentiment, often in exactly these words, my financial problems would be solved. I always find myself asking the same question—the world sucks compared to what? So far this world is it for humanity. At some point we will almost certainly develop the capacity to move off this planet, but we’re not there yet and likely won’t get there in my lifetime. Many people believe that we go someplace else after we die and leave this world, but there’s no actual proof of that. For all practical purposes, this is it. So, what’s the point of comparison? 

    Sure, we can all think of an ideal world that would be better than this one, but is that really a valid comparison? When I was 8 or 9 years old I was sure that I wanted to live in Willy Wonka’s chocolate factory. That was not possible because,among other reasons, neither Willy nor his factory actually exist. That does not mean that I had a lousy childhood. I know I’m being a bit glib, but seriously, we literally have no realistic comparison to make because this world is all there is. 

    We can compare this time to other points in time. Are things better, worse or about the same as they’ve been in the past? I think one has to try very hard to answer “about the same” and has to twist the facts beyond recognition to answer ‘worse”. 

    We can speculate on whether the future will be better, worse or about the same than the present, but that’s all it is—speculation. Unless you are a hardcore fatalist the future isn’t set. It’s not like life is a book and we just haven’t read up to those pages yet. What we do now helps determine what then will be. It doesn’t fully determine it. Some things have been set in motion by past actions that can’t be entirely changed and chance is always a factor. Still, we aren’t helpless. 

    Is the world the best we could possibly make it? It depends on how you define “possibly”, but I thinks it’s fair to answer that no, we’re not doing as well as we could. We’re also not doing as badly as we very easily could, and recently have. Does that really equal suckage? At the very least I’d say that, “The world sucks” is never more than a statement of opinion, and I find myself wondering again why people feel the need to state this opinion as fact to someone actively looking for reason to hope. 

    That’s not something that can be changed, and, frankly, I’m more content on the sidelines.  

    Well, good for you. If it makes you happy that’s fine. At the same time, the one thing we can be pretty sure of is that if everyone does this things will get worse. I understand if you weren’t able to find a balance between actively worrying about every problem and not worry about any problem, but what works for one person will, on a large enough scale, pretty well doom us.

  • Anonymous

    A short post – I know, rare for me :) … paraphrasing a wise person ..

         He/she/ze who saves one life … saves a world.

    Which is all we need to know about hope. People who use the ‘why bother … you cannot change the world’ spiel are taking an easy out in my view.

    None of has to save or change THE world – but each of us can save or change A world, that of someone tangibly assisted because we dared to hope.

  • Anonymous

    A short post – I know, rare for me :) … paraphrasing a wise person ..

         He/she/ze who saves one life … saves a world.

    Which is all we need to know about hope. People who use the ‘why bother … you cannot change the world’ spiel are taking an easy out in my view.

    None of us has to save or change THE world – but each of us can save or change A world, that of someone tangibly assisted because we dared to hope.

  • Anonymous

    Actually, if you really want to do something, encouraging responsible, renewable forestry is THE way to go. I’m sitting in a house right now, made of wood. Or more precisely- several tons of carbon that, for the forseeable future, ain’t goin’ nowhere, and certainly not into the atmosphere. Trees tend to slow down once they reach a certain, usually harvestable stage, so their utility as carbon sinks is maximized by regular harvesting. 

    @lonespark:disqus: thanks. I really need to get back to that, don’t I?

    @fa009241bbd15ee840d21056d1306fb2:disqus : Yeah, I suppose. But frankly, I don’t care anymore. I’ve got my own lonely little pain, the same as everyone else, and dealing with that- surviving that- is what I’m worried about. I don’t have the spoons to deal with anyone else’s problems.

  • hapax

    I’ve got my own lonely little pain, the same as everyone else, and
    dealing with that- surviving that- is what I’m worried about. I don’t
    have the spoons to deal with anyone else’s problems.

    I am very sorry about your pain.  I mean that sincerely, with zero sarcasm.

    But I don’t understand why you think that, in working on your own problems, you aren’t also helping “save the world.”

    “Dealing with” your own personal suffering — whether it’s physical, emotional, economic, spiritual, I don’t know and it’s none of my business — can take ENORMOUS amounts of courage, strength, wisdom, and (as you point out) spoons.  The very attempt to “deal” speaks to great reserves of hope, as well.

    Reduce your own pain, and you’ve reduced the total amount of suffering in the world. That’s something to be applauded! I truly hope for your success.

  • Anonymous

    Actually, if you really want to do something, encouraging responsible, renewable forestry is THE way to go. I’m sitting in a house right now, made of wood. Or more precisely- several tons of carbon that, for the forseeable future, ain’t goin’ nowhere, and certainly not into the atmosphere. Trees tend to slow down once they reach a certain, usually harvestable stage, so their utility as carbon sinks is maximized by regular harvesting. 

    @lonespark:disqus: thanks. I really need to get back to that, don’t I?

    @fa009241bbd15ee840d21056d1306fb2:disqus : Yeah, I suppose. But frankly, I don’t care anymore. I’ve got my own lonely little pain, the same as everyone else, and dealing with that- surviving that- is what I’m worried about. I don’t have the spoons to deal with anyone else’s problems.

  • hapax

    I’ve got my own lonely little pain, the same as everyone else, and
    dealing with that- surviving that- is what I’m worried about. I don’t
    have the spoons to deal with anyone else’s problems.

    I am very sorry about your pain.  I mean that sincerely, with zero sarcasm.

    But I don’t understand why you think that, in working on your own problems, you aren’t also helping “save the world.”

    “Dealing with” your own personal suffering — whether it’s physical, emotional, economic, spiritual, I don’t know and it’s none of my business — can take ENORMOUS amounts of courage, strength, wisdom, and (as you point out) spoons.  The very attempt to “deal” speaks to great reserves of hope, as well.

    Reduce your own pain, and you’ve reduced the total amount of suffering in the world. That’s something to be applauded! I truly hope for your success.

  • Lori

    A timely article to consider, about Steven Pinker’s new book, The Better Angels of Our Nature, which looks at whether or not it’s possible for us to have a future without war.

    http://www.slate.com/articles/Arts/books/2011/10/steven_pinker_s_the_better_angels_of_our_nature_why_should_you_b.html

    My thoughts on the broader topic are too complicated (and possibly to contradictory) for a blog comment, but I did think this bit was worth noting:

    But “believe it or not,” the Harvard psychologist Steven Pinker proclaims in his new book, The Better Angels of Our Nature,”today we may be living in the most peaceable era in our species’ existence.” Other scholars have drawn attention to this underappreciated
    trend, notably the political scientists John Mueller and Joshua Goldstein. I’ve also delved into the topic. But we haven’t exactly triggered a groundswell of belief that humanity is transcending its savage past. I hope that Pinker’s 832-page blockbuster catalyzes a shift in the zeitgeist, because pessimism itself can thwart our efforts to create a less perilous world.

    Pinker is the ideal scholar to deliver glad tidings. He is an exceptionally lucid, entertaining writer, and no one can accuse him of being a Pollyanna. In his 2002 bestseller The Blank Slate, he advocated a tragic view of humanity. Our genetic heritage—which makes us innately quarrelsome, competitive creatures–will forever thwart our attempts to achieve heaven on earth, Pinker argued. In fact, humans are never more dangerous, he suggested,
    than when gripped by utopian ideologies, whether religious ones like Christianity or secular ones like communism.

    But Pinker has always emphasized that we are not slaves to our genes. We can overcome our worst impulses, both because we possess countervailing tendencies toward empathy and
    altruism and because we are capable of self-understanding and improvement. Pinker expands on this theme in Better Angels (a phrase coined by Lincoln in his first inaugural address) as he traces the historic decline of violence. The scope of his enterprise is vast. He has compiled voluminous data, mined from an enormous number of sources, on myriad forms of human conflict and cruelty, ranging from international war and genocide to torture, rapes,
    infanticide, even abuse of animals. Pinker shows that almost all the trends point in the same direction: downward.

  • Lori

    A timely article to consider, about Steven Pinker’s new book, The Better Angels of Our Nature, which looks at whether or not it’s possible for us to have a future without war.

    http://www.slate.com/articles/Arts/books/2011/10/steven_pinker_s_the_better_angels_of_our_nature_why_should_you_b.html

    My thoughts on the broader topic are too complicated (and possibly too contradictory) for a blog comment, but I did think this bit was worth noting:

    But “believe it or not,” the Harvard psychologist Steven Pinker proclaims in his new book, The Better Angels of Our Nature,”today we may be living in the most peaceable era in our species’ existence.” Other scholars have drawn attention to this underappreciated
    trend, notably the political scientists John Mueller and Joshua Goldstein. I’ve also delved into the topic. But we haven’t exactly triggered a groundswell of belief that humanity is transcending its savage past. I hope that Pinker’s 832-page blockbuster catalyzes a shift in the zeitgeist, because pessimism itself can thwart our efforts to create a less perilous world.

    Pinker is the ideal scholar to deliver glad tidings. He is an exceptionally lucid, entertaining writer, and no one can accuse him of being a Pollyanna. In his 2002 bestseller The Blank Slate, he advocated a tragic view of humanity. Our genetic heritage—which makes us innately quarrelsome, competitive creatures–will forever thwart our attempts to achieve heaven on earth, Pinker argued. In fact, humans are never more dangerous, he suggested,
    than when gripped by utopian ideologies, whether religious ones like Christianity or secular ones like communism.

    But Pinker has always emphasized that we are not slaves to our genes. We can overcome our worst impulses, both because we possess countervailing tendencies toward empathy and
    altruism and because we are capable of self-understanding and improvement. Pinker expands on this theme in Better Angels (a phrase coined by Lincoln in his first inaugural address) as he traces the historic decline of violence. The scope of his enterprise is vast. He has compiled voluminous data, mined from an enormous number of sources, on myriad forms of human conflict and cruelty, ranging from international war and genocide to torture, rapes,
    infanticide, even abuse of animals. Pinker shows that almost all the trends point in the same direction: downward.

  • Anonymous


    “Dealing with” your own personal suffering — whether it’s physical, emotional, economic, spiritual, I don’t know and it’s none of my business — can take ENORMOUS amounts of courage, strength, wisdom, and (as you point out) spoons.

    Your entire comment was most kind, and appreciated, but this I must disagree with. 

    It doesn’t take courage….it takes just enough cowardice to keep from pulling the trigger, and thats about it. Humans, like everything else from viruses on up, are hard wired to survive. Barring enough to push us over the threshold, human beings will deal with their problems. There’s nothing like courage anywhere near anything I’ve ever done. 

  • Ferlith

    There’s nothing like courage anywhere near anything I’ve ever done.

    That’s not true.

    You’re the one who wrote that Discworld Rapture fic, right?  Posting your work on the internet for the world to see, not knowing if it will be praised or derided or (perhaps worst) completely ignored?  That takes courage.  More than I, at least, have most of the time.

    Yeah, yeah, I know, it’s a tiny, insignificant action in the grand scheme of things.  So what?  Aren’t most actions, really?  That doesn’t mean we should discount anything that doesn’t change the entire world.

    (And that fic?  Is awesome, incidentally.  It’s one of the few Discworld fics I’ve read that actually felt as if I was reading another Discworld story–you captured the writing style and the characters very well, and the plot had me hooked.)

  • Anonymous


    “Dealing with” your own personal suffering — whether it’s physical, emotional, economic, spiritual, I don’t know and it’s none of my business — can take ENORMOUS amounts of courage, strength, wisdom, and (as you point out) spoons.

    Your entire comment was most kind, and appreciated, but this I must disagree with. 

    It doesn’t take courage….it takes just enough cowardice to keep from pulling the trigger, and thats about it. Humans, like everything else from viruses on up, are hard wired to survive. Barring enough to push us over the threshold, human beings will deal with their problems. There’s nothing like courage anywhere near anything I’ve ever done. 

  • Ferlith

    There’s nothing like courage anywhere near anything I’ve ever done.

    That’s not true.

    You’re the one who wrote that Discworld Rapture fic, right?  Posting your work on the internet for the world to see, not knowing if it will be praised or derided or (perhaps worst) completely ignored?  That takes courage.  More than I, at least, have most of the time.

    Yeah, yeah, I know, it’s a tiny, insignificant action in the grand scheme of things.  So what?  Aren’t most actions, really?  That doesn’t mean we should discount anything that doesn’t change the entire world.

    (And that fic?  Is awesome, incidentally.  It’s one of the few Discworld fics I’ve read that actually felt as if I was reading another Discworld story–you captured the writing style and the characters very well, and the plot had me hooked.)

  • Grey Seer

     I’ve heard those arguments before – about how anything I do is ultimately pointless in the grand scheme of things, how it’s a drop in the ocean, so what’s the point of doing anything?

     Thing is, in the grand scheme of things, nothing we do matters. There will come a day when the sun has died, when Earth is gone, and no one in the entire universe remembers that humanity ever existed. On that sort of scale, nothing that any of us do will ever mean a damn thing.

     And you know what? I really, honestly don’t give a shit. I’m not trying to make the universe a better place, I’m not trying to save the entire world by myself. I’m trying to make sure that the homeless guy I see on the street gets a hot meal, that a kid in Africa gets the medicine needed to survive, and that a goddam tree gets planted in Haiti. And fuck all of you who tell me it’s pointless – I know that, and I’m doing it anyway.

  • Grey Seer

     I’ve heard those arguments before – about how anything I do is ultimately pointless in the grand scheme of things, how it’s a drop in the ocean, so what’s the point of doing anything?

     Thing is, in the grand scheme of things, nothing we do matters. There will come a day when the sun has died, when Earth is gone, and no one in the entire universe remembers that humanity ever existed. On that sort of scale, nothing that any of us do will ever mean a damn thing.

     And you know what? I really, honestly don’t give a shit. I’m not trying to make the universe a better place, I’m not trying to save the entire world by myself. I’m trying to make sure that the homeless guy I see on the street gets a hot meal, that a kid in Africa gets the medicine needed to survive, and that a goddam tree gets planted in Haiti. And fuck all of you who tell me it’s pointless – I know that, and I’m doing it anyway.

  • http://ifindaudio.blogspot.com/ Murfyn

     1)  Not everything can be proven, It is necessary to make certain basic assumptions
    2)  The most necessary basic assumption is that life is worth living

  • http://ifindaudio.blogspot.com/ Murfyn

     1)  Not everything can be proven, It is necessary to make certain basic assumptions
    2)  The most necessary basic assumption is that life is worth living

  • Anonymous

    For everyone who suffers hardships, here is Ace Rimmer’s opinion.

    Ace: By his terms, he got the break. But being kept down made me. The humiliation. Being the tallest boy in the class by a clear foot. It made me knuckle down, fight back. And I’ve been fighting back ever since.
    Lister: While he’s spent the rest of his life making excuses.
    Ace: … Perhaps he’s right. Perhaps I did get the break.

  • Anonymous

    For everyone who suffers hardships, here is Ace Rimmer’s opinion.

    Ace: By his terms, he got the break. But being kept down made me. The humiliation. Being the tallest boy in the class by a clear foot. It made me knuckle down, fight back. And I’ve been fighting back ever since.
    Lister: While he’s spent the rest of his life making excuses.
    Ace: … Perhaps he’s right. Perhaps I did get the break.

  • Anonymous

    What’s that apocryphal Martin Luther quote?  “Even if I knew the world would end tomorrow, still I would plant my apple trees.”

    Or as Tom Stoppard put it in Jumpers:

    Do not despair — many are happy much of
    the time; more eat than starve, more are healthy than sick, more curable
    than dying; not so many dying as dead; and one of the thieves was
    saved. Hell’s bells and all’s well — half the world is at peace with
    itself, and so is the other half; vast areas are unpolluted; millions of
    children grow up without suffering deprivation, and millions, while
    deprived, grow up without suffering cruelties, and millions, while
    deprived and cruelly treated, none the less grow up. No laughter is sad
    and many tears are joyful.

  • chris the cynic

    What’s that apocryphal Martin Luther quote?  “Even if I knew the world would end tomorrow, still I would plant my apple trees.”

    I thought that was Francis of Assisi.  Of course, if it’s an apocryphal quotation we could attribute it to anyone.

  • Anonymous

    What’s that apocryphal Martin Luther quote?  “Even if I knew the world would end tomorrow, still I would plant my apple trees.”

    Or as Tom Stoppard put it in Jumpers:

    Do not despair — many are happy much of the time; more eat than starve, more are healthy than sick, more curable than dying; not so many dying as dead; and one of the thieves was saved. Hell’s bells and all’s well — half the world is at peace with itself, and so is the other half; vast areas are unpolluted; millions of children grow up without suffering deprivation, and millions, while deprived, grow up without suffering cruelties, and millions, while deprived and cruelly treated, none the less grow up. No laughter is sad and many tears are joyful.

  • http://stealingcommas.blogspot.com/ chris the cynic

    What’s that apocryphal Martin Luther quote?  “Even if I knew the world would end tomorrow, still I would plant my apple trees.”

    I thought that was Francis of Assisi.  Of course, if it’s an apocryphal quotation we could attribute it to anyone.

  • Lyra

    Does anyone have any nonsection options other than the one PepperjackCandy offered? It would be much appreciated.

  • Lyra

    Does anyone have any nonsection options other than the one PepperjackCandy offered? It would be much appreciated.

  • MaryKaye

    I have a letter in the mail from the Carter Center this morning announcing that Guinea worm has been officially eliminated in Ghana.  Only four more countries to go.  They would like people to send messages of congratulations to the President of Ghana.

    Guinea worm is a parasite that enters the body via contaminated water, grows to a large worm, and then pokes out through a hole in a limb–usually a leg–to lay its eggs.  You can’t pull the worm out as it breaks off and infects the wound.  The victim is in extreme pain for weeks and it’s difficult for them to work.

    The two things that seemed to be needed were community education and inexpensive water filters.  Local musicians wrote songs explaining the Guinea worm hygiene rules.  Local artists drew comic books and posters.  Women and children were put in charge of tending the family water filters.  And it worked.

    A world in which people are not laid up in excruciating pain while a worm bores out through their leg is a better world.  The letter suggests that singing is an appropriate response to this news, and I agree.

  • MaryKaye

    I have a letter in the mail from the Carter Center this morning announcing that Guinea worm has been officially eliminated in Ghana.  Only four more countries to go.  They would like people to send messages of congratulations to the President of Ghana.

    Guinea worm is a parasite that enters the body via contaminated water, grows to a large worm, and then pokes out through a hole in a limb–usually a leg–to lay its eggs.  You can’t pull the worm out as it breaks off and infects the wound.  The victim is in extreme pain for weeks and it’s difficult for them to work.

    The two things that seemed to be needed were community education and inexpensive water filters.  Local musicians wrote songs explaining the Guinea worm hygiene rules.  Local artists drew comic books and posters.  Women and children were put in charge of tending the family water filters.  And it worked.

    A world in which people are not laid up in excruciating pain while a worm bores out through their leg is a better world.  The letter suggests that singing is an appropriate response to this news, and I agree.

  • MaryKaye

    I have a letter in the mail from the Carter Center this morning announcing that Guinea worm has been officially eliminated in Ghana.  Only four more countries to go.  They would like people to send messages of congratulations to the President of Ghana.

    Guinea worm is a parasite that enters the body via contaminated water, grows to a large worm, and then pokes out through a hole in a limb–usually a leg–to lay its eggs.  You can’t pull the worm out as it breaks off and infects the wound.  The victim is in extreme pain for weeks and it’s difficult for them to work.

    The two things that seemed to be needed were community education and inexpensive water filters.  Local musicians wrote songs explaining the Guinea worm hygiene rules.  Local artists drew comic books and posters.  Women and children were put in charge of tending the family water filters.  And it worked.

    A world in which people are not laid up in excruciating pain while a worm bores out through their leg is a better world.  The letter suggests that singing is an appropriate response to this news, and I agree.


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