On Christmas day, I found myself re-reading this from my favorite author, Marilynne Robinson:
“Cultural pessimism is always fashionable and, since we’re human, there are always grounds for it. It has the negative consequence of depressing the level of aspiration, the sense of the possible. And, from time to time, it has the extremely negative consequence of encouraging a kind of somber panic, the collective dream-state in which recourse to terrible remedies is inspired by delusions of mortal threat.”
Still, as Robinson continues, “It is easy to forget that there are always as good grounds for optimism as for pessimism—exactly the same ground, in fact—that is, because we are human. We still have every potential for good we’ve ever had and the same presumptive claim to respect, our own respect and one another’s. We are still creatures of singular interest and value, agile a soul as we have always been and as we will continue to be, even despite our errors and depredations, for as long as we abide on earth. To value one another is our greatest safety, and to indulge in fear and contempt is our greatest error.”
She continues in much the same vein, “History has shown us a thousand variations on the temptations that come with tribalism, the excitements that stir when certain lines are seen as important because they can be rather clearly drawn. This is old humankind going about its mad business as if it simply cannot remember the harm it did itself yesterday.”
We must never forget the reality—a reality “greater than the markets”—and this is the reality that our planet is fragile, and peace among nations, where it exists, is also fragile. We live on a knife edge.
“The greatest tests ever made of human wisdom and decency may very well come to this generation or the next one. We must teach and learn broadly and seriously, dealing with one another with deep respect and the best good faith” Robinson concludes.