Thursday, April 23, 2015

The Difference Between Hope and Optimism

I finished my first reading of Walter Brueggemann's Prophetic Imagination today. I know, it's a classic and I am embarrassed for not having read it before now. So much of my seminary education was influenced by people influenced by this amazingly influential little book. It's also very dense. So much so that I'll be diving in again once I bust through a book review book this week. There's so much to learn there - I need a second go 'round.

Towards the end of the book there's a little off-handed remark (it might even be in parentheses) that hope and optimism are not the same thing. He didn't even explain it, really, but it struck me as particularly profound. Optimism, as Brueggemann says often, is a pacification technique used by those in power - it is the notion that things will get better (especially if we hold the course). Hope, on the other hand, is a recognition that things, as they are, are broken. Hope looks outside ourselves to something (some one) else to make necessary changes. There is still a belief things will be different (better), but hope builds within us and motivates for change - change within, but change from outside. It is the instilling of hope that helps make the changes in action that lead to a different world.

We should not confuse optimism for hope, for there is little hope in optimism beyond whatever panacea brief, immediate peace may bring.

I'm sure I'll write more about the book as I tackle it a second time, but I'm energized by the notion of being a people of prophetic imagination - both unmasking the failures of the system in which we live and working to present an alternative more in line with God's intentions for creation.

No comments: