"To the question whether I am a pessimist or an optimist, I answer that my knowledge is pessimistic, but my willing and hoping are optimistic." -- Albert Schweitzer
I got a great Christmas gift yesterday, the DVD of U2's 2001 Slane Castle show in Ireland -- the concerts performed just after Bono's dad died and just before 9-11. U2 has long been one of my favorite bands, and in this contentious political season, I love seeing them show how it's possible to be both angry and hopeful, both pissed and optimistic. Many wise souls, paraphrasing Albert Schweitzer, have said "We must have pessimism of the intellect and optimism of the will," and it occurs to me that many of the things I feel most connected to -- U2's music, the Dean campaign, Hope magazine (you haven't heard of it? click here for info), the writings of Paul Krugman (see an archive here), Unitarian Universalism -- are grounded by exactly that principle.
And then there's a great song by Jackson Browne, showcased on the Chieftains' Bells of Dublin CD a few years back. In The Rebel Jesus, Browne had this to say:
We guard our world with locks and guns
And we guard our fine possessions
And once a year when Christmas comes
We give to our relations
And perhaps we give a little to the poor
If the generosity should seize us
But if any one of us should interfere
In the business of why there are poor
They get the same as the rebel Jesus
Click here to read all the lyrics.
Pessimism of the intellect means knowing America under George W. Bush has gone off track with its siege mentality, environmental plundering, and bitter class divisions. Optimism of the will means knowing there's a better way: a way of reconciliation and cooperation, a way of governing as if everyone has a place at the table.