“To be a full adult is not to be a better version of a worldly young adult, capable of more impressive cynicism, but to contain both the child and the young adult, to contain both optimism and cynicism, wariness and hope.”—Aaron Elliott, “Optimism and Cynicism,” Committing Sociology (November 10, 2015)
As a healthy white guy with a good job, living in one of the wealthiest countries on Planet Earth (indeed, in human history), I find it surprisingly easy to be optimistic and cheerful about life, the universe, and, well, pretty much everything—in fact, I’m tempted, at times, to conclude that everything’s great and wonderful and the whiners should all just shut up and join the party.
But then I remember the true identity of The Tempter, and I remember what became of Odysseus’s men in The Land of the Lotus Eaters, and I feel my blissful yoga-retreat ignorance giving way to something a little more grown-up, something akin to Buddha’s joyful participation in the sufferings of the world.
We all need to achieve the sort of balance Kwame Brown speaks of: between responsibility to pleasure and responsibility to pain. But we get to it from different directions. People on the front lines of the struggle have to keep their heads from going up in flames. People like me have to keep their heads out of the sand.
—John Faithful Hamer, From Here (2016)