A Hopeful 2018 Begins With Reading Widely

Some think 2018 might be the year of hope; a blue wave may re-shape the American government and a corrupt administration may finally see justice.

Those are some high hopes, but to paraphrase Jyn Erso, “the resistance is built on hope.”

In reality, if the blue wave happens, be prepared to be severely disappointed by the new blood in office. It is politics, after all. And if any justice is delivered for an administration that worked with Russia, then it will likely take more time than we’re comfortable with to get there.

To loosely paraphrase Luke Skywalker: “This Administration may not end the way you think.”

But still, whatever happens, if we’ve lived the first years of this administration in only narrow reactions to tweets and horrible decisions, then we’ve not allowed ourselves a healthy diet of good ideas needed to set things right when it is all said and done.

For example, I know that I need to do more than read The New York Times on Trump’s latest blunder, and then read what The Washington Post says about the same blunder—only to follow it up with a contrarian Slate piece and some thread on Twitter that says why everyone in the media actually has it wrong.

There is more to life than this sort of purgatory.

In other words, there is more to reading than what fuels our outrage. Find those books and articles that remind you of what you love about the world and motivates you to act on it positively. Find the poetry that inspires you to write beautifully and the fiction that enables you to breathe in another world. Find the nonfiction that reminds you that most of the best ideas cannot be found or expressed in 280 characters or a gif.

Be angry when you must. Build the resistance. Call out bullshit. It is good when you can still be shocked by injustice. But when you—and when I say “you,” I’m really starting with myself—seek perspectives to build yourself up and broaden your horizons, try reading widely and in unfamiliar territory. Fall in love with a perspective you’ve never previously considered.

There is, for everything (to paraphrase Ecclesiastes), a season, and a time for every book or article in our lives. (I must be in a paraphrasing mood.)

So take a week to read a book about trees or birds; consider getting out into nature to find them in person. Read about the universe or the history of the earth; ask what that history says about being human and what it means for you in this moment. The future needs good perspectives for rebuilding a liberal democracy, and those ideas are only found when we allow ourselves to be curious about the world around us and to venture out into unexplored reading. As Emily Dickinson says, “There is no Frigate like a Book.”

In a world with plenty of darkness to go around, we to need allow our minds some time in the sun. If 2018 is going to be a year of built on hope, then it needs to be built on an intellectual foundation worthy of our hopefulness.

Photo: Ben White on Unsplash.