A few years ago, my understanding of the state of the world and it’s need for change was rather pessimistic. I saw a great flood of things going wrong. That the dam that had been holding catastrophe back for decades was beginning to leak. At best, I thought, I could hope to plug a few of those leaks with my fingers and toes. There was nothing that would stop the dam from breaking. Nothing that would halt the forthcoming flood.
And that the flood was unstoppable meant that it wasn’t worth trying. It was hardly worth trying to change “hearts and minds.” After all, a couple more people putting fingers and toes into holes would do little to stop the oncoming rush of water.
Today, I’m rather certain that was silly. And it’s not that the world has changed dramatically in the interim, it’s simply that I’ve changed. And my attitude toward changing the world is probably the most noticeable difference.
Today I recognize that I’m still working on drops. Though societies move in waves and tides, individual people can only influence drops. And thinking that you’re just a single drop in the ocean can be an incredibly depressing thought. But it need not be.
Anything I do will only be a metaphorical drop in the bucket. But one drop can change other drops. Groups of drops can make ripples. Ripples can coalesce into waves. Large waves can create floods. Surely that’s getting ahead of ourselves. We are, after all, still just drops.
But being “just a drop in the bucket,” isn’t so bad. If you change yourself, that means there’s one more drop like you want all the others to be. One more drop working toward the world that you want. And one drop can change other drops.
It’s not as if changing other drops is easy. Even if you’re one red drop in an ocean of plain old water, you’re not going to change the entire complexion of that water by yourself. You may be shunned and mocked by some of those plain old water drops. But at some point you’ll find another drop that wants to be red like you. And they may know someone else who thinks it’s a good idea. And so on it’ll go. It’s not inevitable that everyone will come to understand, and it’s certainly not inevitable that the whole group will suddenly embrace their redness. But if you’re sure that the world should be red, you shouldn’t worry about the color of anyone else.
That then, is the fundamental difference between the nihilistic pessimism of my past and and the reserved optimism of my present. And if my drop changes only one thing, I would like it to lead others suffering from a bad case of pessimism to see that optimism is almost always a wiser and healther choice.