I’m about halfway through Eagleton’s book, Hope Without Optimism. Optimism, it seems, is a vacuous, ungrounded belief that everything will be ok. Everything will work out for the best. It’s an attitude and an outlook. And when things don’t work out for the best, they have to be quickly recast as actually the best but we didn’t know it right away (the “what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger” kind of thing). Eagleton is not a fan of optimism. Neither am I.
Hope, on the other hand, requires a lot of work and for the most part, has very little to do with optimism. You can be hopeful without being optimistic. You can hope desperately for something, knowing full well that it likely won’t come to pass. And hope requires that we acknowledge that things might not work out for the best. That doesn’t mean we should quit. Not at all. There is a realism and a drive implied with hope that optimism doesn’t require. Hopeful people hold a certain fidelity to the virtue of hope. The whole idea is to forge ahead in a hopeful way, despite the presence or lack of optimism.
I’ve begun MATH 140 for the second time. So far, the material is familiar and I am passing, but I’m certainly not “acing” this course the way I expected–given that his is my second time through. And, of course, life is again getting in the way in all kinds of wonderful and insidious ways.
However: I will remain hopeful. Not optimistic. But unflaggingly hopeful.