What if everything we’ve been told about human nature is wrong, and we’re actually very generous, communitarian, altruistic beings who are distorted by the system we are in but not made happy by it? What if we could actually be better people in a better world? ~Rebecca Solnit

My heart opens up as I hear Rebecca Solnit, historian and author of Hope in the Dark: Untold Histories, Wild Possibilities (2016), say this in her interview with Krista Tippett of On Being.

Imagine that better world that would allow us to be better human beings!

I’m particularly struck by Solnit’s thoughts on what hope is, and is not. Hope, she says, is not optimism, which is the belief that “…everything will be fine, and we can just sit back.” That, she says is too much like pessimism, which is “…everything is going to suck so we can just sit back.” Hope is more complex and more difficult than that. It’s about “…a Buddhist sense of uncertainty, of coming to terms with the fact that we don’t know what will happen and there’s maybe room to intervene.” It takes courage to face that uncertainty.

Listen as they discuss hope and uncertainty, happiness and joy, the impact of the stories we tell and don’t tell, and identify the surprising effects of disasters on the human spirit.