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Hope

On hope, the easy default of cynicism, and the stories we tell ourselves

In the latest Brain Pickings newsletter, Maria Popova discusses hope through Rebecca Solnit’s work Hope in the Dark: Untold Histories, Wild Possibilities. This comes a week after Caitlin Moran talked about the tyranny of cynicism (a topic David Foster Wallace also critiqued):

“The default tone is snark and cynicism to protect yourself from idealism… You put on the armour of cynicism to cover up the fact that you don’t know that much and to protect yourself.” But for Caitlin there are consequences “It won’t allow you to grow. … At some point you need to … believe in things getting better.”

Solnit also provides one of the best descriptions of optimism/pessimism that I’ve ever read:

“Optimists think it will all be fine without our involvement; pessimists take the opposite position; both excuse themselves from acting. It’s the belief that what we do matters even though how and when it may matter, who and what it may impact, are not things we can know beforehand.”

As Maria writes:

“The stories we tell ourselves about our public past shape how we interpret and respond to and show up for the present. The stories we tell ourselves about our private pasts shape how we come to see our personhood and who we ultimately become.”

I see echoes of this idea of hope and story-telling in an increasing move towards ‘bringing your whole self to work’ as found in a lot of Buffer’s writing and recently discussed by Inga Beale on Woman’s Hour.

In the worlds of advertising, design and marketing, story-telling is used to sell; to grow affection and loyalty for a brand. Story-telling shapes our external reality and our internal dialogue. What stories will we tell ourselves and will they bring us hope? But more than just bringing us hope, as we process our own story we need to decide what actions come next.

We’re not passive characters in our lives, but rather active agents with the ability to make a difference.