If you’ve got a spare 35 minutes, this fantastic talk by astrophysicist Pamela Gay is absolutely worth your time. Delivered at the annual Amazing Meeting, the speech touches on many things — the future of American crewed spaceflight (Gay is more optimistic about this than Neil deGrasse Tyson is), some cool Citizen Science projects, and the importance of standing up against sexist bullshit, at professional conferences and everywhere else. But underlying it all, Gay lays out a powerfully compelling case for optimism as a stance toward society’s problems — optimism not just as idle wishful thinking, but (as “No Impact Man” Colin Beavan and Egyptian activist Wael Ghonim have explained) as a basis for courage and action.
From the transcript:
It’s a lot easier to do nothing… easier to lose hope that anything can even be done. And there are people out there who would encourage despair.
If, like me, you’re a child of the 80s, you may remember a movie called “Neverending Story”. It came out when I was a dorky little kid. This movie contained a certain giant wolf who totally understands trolls and their effect of creating their own great nothing in the world. (link) When asked why he is helping the great nothing destroy their world, this wolf responds, “It’s like a despair, destroying this world. … people who have no hopes are easy to control.”
Looking around the internets, I see a lot of people sitting around trolling, and a lot people experiencing despair. There are YouTube videos of people complaining, and blog posts of people expressing their hurt, and in many cases there are legitimate reasons for people to be upset. There are people dying because we’ve lost herd immunity (link). There are lesbian teens in texas being killed for falling in love (link). There are so many cases of abuse that it hurts to read the news. There are lots of real reasons to be frustrated about the world we live in and it is easy to complain… and it is easy to lose hope.
It is dreaming that is hard.
The Neverending story, in its childhood tale of morality, addresses this too. Through the voice of the Childlike Empress, the boy outside the story is asked, “Why don’t you do what you dream, Bastian?” Bastian replies the way I think so many of us reply when when asked why we don’t follow our wildest dreams, “But I can’t, I have to keep my feet on the ground!” (link)
Dreaming is hard. It requires risks. It requires you to own the fact that you are capable of something great.
A few years ago, I came across a powerful quote that was attributed to anonymous.
“Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness, that most frightens us. We ask ourselves, who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented and fabulous? Actually, who are you not to be? ” (link to old blog post on this quote)
I’d challenge you to let your feet fly off the ground and I’d challenge you to dream big and let your light push away the darkness of dispair in the world.
I challenge you to change the world.
There’s much more, and you can read the entire thing here.
More reasons for optimism here.
(via Bad Astronomy)