As we enter December, there is much to be thankful for and much to grieve. Violence abounds – both in Chicago and in various places around the globe. Racism and other forms of exclusion persist in horrifying ways. Poverty is more characteristic of the world we live in than many of us can face.
These sentences contain - in both senses of the word – much suffering.
And yet: students and others are standing up in a wide range of ways to change the world. Some of the work is volunteerism – at soup kitchens & settlement houses. Some of the work is activism on campuses and beyond. Some of the work is educational, as we help one another to focus on facts not rumor, to engage critically with the world around us and meet others with generosity and hope. Part of that hope – of dangerous optimism – is our hope to hear and be heard. All of the work is necessary.
And this hope is both an individual and an institutional hope, if we can envision structures of hope.
What we grieve and what we are thankful for each reminds us that to live fully in the blazing world, as a late, dear friend of mine once put it, is what it is all about. It is about the effort to listen, to think deeply, to enjoy and celebrate, to mourn and be exuberant. It is aspirational and in the moment, not one or the other.
I hope, this month, that you will be as open to new ideas as ever, to the humanity in all around you, to the worth of our best critics who help us see the difference between aspiration and reality, intention and impact.
I hope this month, and all months, that you will support Shimer as we steer between reality and utopia – and as we build hope in ourselves and the world around us.
Dangerously optimistically yours,
Susan E. Henking