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  • Writer's pictureSue Schleifer

Despair and Hope

I must admit that sometimes I feel despair. I read the newspaper in the morning and am overcome by sadness and anger at our leaders’ lack of honesty, compassion, and respect for others. I wonder how people can be so fearful of those different from themselves. And what happened to the moral compass of so many people, when the almighty dollar takes precedence over human decency?

I find that I need more time by myself to build reserves of strength, clarity, and compassion so that I am effective in my work. I just returned from vacation in Maine and that was rejuvenating. To watch the sun glisten on the water as the schooners headed out to sea. To hike up a hill and watch my steps so that I didn’t trip on roots and rocks. To savor the taste of fresh lobster.

I am trying to find a balance between awareness of what is going on in my community, state, nation, and world and taking care of myself so that I can help others and take action when appropriate. This balance seems to shift at different times.

Hope recently arrived in my mailbox: MIT Technology Review magazine’s issue featuring 35 Innovators Under 35. I am encouraged to read about what these young people are discovering, inventing, and dedicating their careers pursuing. Guosong Hong, born in China and working at Stanford University, invented a mesh-like tool, an electrode, that is precise and small enough to revolutionize brain treatments.

Mariana Popescu, born in Romania, developed a process for using knitted textiles to build complex molds that can be used in construction to cut time, money, and carbon emissions.

Tim Ellis, born in the United States, developed a 3D metal printer, used with machine learning to build rockets and satellites in a fraction of the time and with fewer moving parts than standard rockets.

Ida Pavlichenko, born in Azerbaijan and working at Harvard’s Wyss Institute, developed smaller, infection-resistant ear tubes that could make ear infections, especially for children, easier to treat.

These are just a few of the discoveries that are profiled in the magazine. I am excited to learn about the advances that these dedicated researchers are making.

Oliver Sacks wrote in his book, Gratitude, “I feel a sudden clear focus and perspective. There is no time for anything inessential. I must focus on myself, my work, and my friends.... I shall no longer pay any attention to politics or arguments about global warming.

This is not indifference but detachment—I still care deeply about the Middle East, about global warming, about growing inequality, but these are no longer my business; they belong to the future. I rejoice when I meet gifted young people—even the one who biopsied and diagnosed my metastases. I feel the future is in good hands.”

I am not at the same place that Sacks describes; he was near the end of his life when he wrote that, and yet I too rejoice and find hope in the gifted young people who are making a difference in this world.

Who or what inspires you and gives you hope for the future?

How do you take care of yourself when or before you feel despair?


TED talk by Louie Schwartzberg: Nature. Beauty. Gratitude.

On Being: Ross Gay on Tending Joy and Practicing Delight

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