Saturday, January 19, 2008

Cornel West


The other day we had a discussion over lunch about optimism and pessimism and my reaction was that it was difficult for me to see how and why a Christian could be pessimistic. Somehow though, the categories of pessimism and optimism seemed to me inadequate. Today, I stumbled on a quote in Rolling Stone by Cornel West (see this great interview on You Tube), who is a Professor at Princeton and author of 'Democracy Matters'. Here too are a couple of lectures he gave to Union Seminary in New york that I plan to listen to a some point and a Martin Luther King Lecture that is a phenomenal demonstration of oratory for all aspiring preachers out there. Anyway, he hit upon the words I would have mustered had I been a clever American Professor.

"RS: So you're optimistic about the future?

Cornel West: The categories of optimism and pessimism don't exist for me. I'm a blues man. A blues man is a prisoner of hope, and hope is a qualitatively different category than optimism. Optimism is a secular construct, a calculation of probability. Black folk in America have never been optimistic about the future - what have we had to be optimistic about? But we are people of hope. Hope wrestles with despair, but it doesn't generate optimism. It just generates this energy to be courageous, to bear witness, to see what the end is going to be. No guarantee, unfinished, open-ended. I'm a prisoner of hope. I'm going to die full of hope..."

A 'prisoner of hope', now that it what I should have said.....

If you want to see how Cornel and others including Bill Clinton, Bill Gates, Bono, Eddy Vedder see the prospects for the future look up the 40th Anniversary Edition.

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