I don’t think we need a lengthy introduction here about how awful humanity can be. It’s pretty easy to look around and spot a hundred examples all within arm’s reach. Humanity can be awful. It hurts. It hurts so much there’s a term for it: Weltschmertz, which is German for ‘world pain’.
World pain. That’s pretty much it, isn’t it? When you look at the world and the horrors it contains, and it hurts, and it’s as big as the world and has heavy as the world and just a solidly immovable.
Most of us can’t do much about the pains of the world (though if you’re interested in trying, here’s a super cool organisation dedicated to helping people make the most out of their careers to address the world’s top problems), and that makes it even worse; we see the pain, we feel the pain–and we’re powerless.
Everywhere in the world, people are hurting, people are scared, and people’s lives are in danger. Maybe for some they’ve always been in danger. Maybe some people are only just now being confronted with the fragility of their present existence. Maybe some people are actively trying to take lives away; maybe the natural powers of the world itself are against them. But everywhere, people are hurting, and people are dying.
This is nothing new.
And it still hurts.
And I have no magic bullet to offer you, no empty promises, no salves or balms for wounds immeasurable.
But I do have hope.
Please, don’t scoff. I know it’s a fragile thing to offer; I know sometimes it feels hollow. But hope is what keeps us alive.
More than that: hope is what keeps us human. Because much as we like to set ourselves apart from the rest of the animal kingdom because of our incredible intellectual prowess, our ability to calculate physics and make rational plans, our creativity, our ability to imagine a different future, to hope for that future–these set us apart just as much. Fundamentally, humans are creative; I believe that’s part of why it hurts so much to see the horrors of the world. It’s not just that we’re empathising with another suffering human; it’s that some deep-seated part of us recognises that these horrors, whatever they may be, are fundamentally destructive: destructing lives, respect, dignity, communities, our sense of self.
Because that’s the other part that hurts, somewhere down behind the empathy and the sorrow: the recognition that the people causing this destruction are human too. And that can seriously mess with our sense of self; what are humans? What are we? Good? Bad? Destructive horrors? Creative miracles?
Of course, we’re both, the living paradox of the universe, the best and the worst all in one species–and sometimes even in the same person. Because all of us have our inner darknesses, and the darkness is always calling.
It calls louder when we’ve lost hope.
So I know that hope is something flimsy to hold when it seems like the world is crumbling around you; I know that hope can’t magically fix your circumstances. But I can’t honestly tell you that it won’t save your life; hope can save lives, it can improve the world. It has before, all thorughout the history of the world, and as long as there are humans doing horrible, destructive things, there will be humans doing wonderful, creative things, providing hope and lifting others up.
So here: take my hope. All of it. It’ll regrow soon enough, and I’ll have more, and I’ll pass it on to someone else again who needs it. Because that’s what humans do, right? We get knocked down, and hope restores us, and restores in us. Hope is like the seed that germinates in the deep frosts of winter, struggling upwards through the dirt, bending around rocks, seeking, seeking, never giving up until it finds the light.
There is a light. There always is. Sometimes it takes a long time to come–too long for some, such sorrow–but come it surely does. Humanity is full of soul-crippling horrors; it is also the largest collective vessel for hope in the universe.
Hope. Hope madly. Hope powerfully, by acting on those hopes. And trust, if you still can, in the creative power of people. There is a light, and we will drag each other towards it as surely as the seeds will find the sun.
Hold on. And if you can’t, hold a friend; hold me. We will drag you onwards, and together we will reach that light.
We won’t leave you behind. Hold on.