Looking for an emotional antidote to a recent book I read, the perfect palliative publication was waiting for me. I love synchronicity!
The book needing mitigation was Terror in the Name of God: Why Religious Militants Kill by Jessica Stern. Don’t get me wrong, this is an excellent book. It was definitely a worthwhile pursuit toward understanding its topic, and I highly recommend it. There is a lengthy cogent review of the book at the New York Times, but what I appreciated the most was how Stern didn’t focus exclusively upon religion per se. Rather, she delved into the psychology as well; she wanted to understand “how people who claim to be motivated by religious principles come to kill innocent people in the service of ideas.” For instance, she looked at the aspects of alienation, humiliation, demographics, history, and territory. Stern addressed how these particularities contribute to transforming people into religious militants (Christian, Jewish, and Muslim). Nevertheless, when I finished reading, I felt compelled to find a pick-me-up. I needed to wash off the despair and angst provoked by the book.
One of the many books on my end table was Rebecca Solnit’s Hope in the Dark: Untold Histories, Wild Possibilities. I had discovered this one via the blog Brain Pickings, but had not yet started reading. HOPE. It’s easy to see why my hand reached for this one, and I wasn’t disappointed. Solnit writes that:
“Hope doesn’t mean denying these realities [terrorism, war, inequality, rampant capitalism, climate change, etc.]. It means facing them and addressing them by remembering what else the twenty-first century has brought, including the movements, heroes, and shifts in consciousness that address these things now.”
Solnit provides an exceptional long view of movements in history, many we might have overlooked or forgotten if we keep our eyes locked into tunnel vision. She’s an activist and hope, for her, holds a different perspective than it might for you or me. Solnit states:
“Hope is an embrace of the unknown and the unknowable, an alternative to the certainty of both optimists and pessimists. … It’s the belief that what we do matters even though how and when it may matter, who and what it may impact, are not things we can know beforehand.”
Yes, her book was exactly what I needed. It is a slim volume that reminds and refreshes and returns me to calm, but with an added spark of, yes, hope.
Maria Popova provides a beautiful essay about Hope in the Dark utilizing more inspirational quotes; I encourage you to explore her offerings. She has been a wonderful resource for me to dive into a wide variety of works!