Friday, December 07, 2018

Today I learned...

I saw a reference made to "hopepunk," and I had to look it up. (I am not down on the various names of different genres of things*)

In the simplest form, it's the opposite of grimdark.

So. As I said on Twitter: "If hopepunk is the opposite of grimdark, that's my thing." I've said before I'm a giant sucker for redemption stories, and I love things where there's a happy reunion at the end, or the bad thing is overcome, or the unpleasant person changes.

Here's a bit more on it, more referencing movies. I'm more of a reader than a watcher-of-movies (have never seen LOTR all the way through...but then again, I've never read the trilogy all the way through, so).

I suspect "The Good Place" qualifies as hopepunk. (And I need to watch the second season. Have the dvds, don't have time right now). I suspect anything I can watch or read where I go, "Wow, I feel better after experiencing that" maybe qualifies as hopepunk.

I like the idea of a world that is better than our own, or perhaps that our world is flawed but worth working to save.

(*Heh. I think now of the bit from "The Amazing World of Gumball," the Sluzzletag episode:

"Rocky: And what kind of music do you play on Sluzzle Tag? 
Gumball: Grindcore. 
Banana Joe: What's grindcore? 
Rocky: Grindcore goes a bit like this. [Gruff voice] Raah! Raah rah-rah raah! Rah-rah-rah-rah-rah-rah! It's important not to mix it up with black metal, which is more like... Raaaaaaah! Another common mistake is to confuse it with Viking metal, which sounds more like banging a trash can with an axe.")

And here's a list, mostly books in the sci-fi/fantasy genres (which I don't tend to read a lot of) that have been classified as hopepunk. (And that webpage writer suggests that it also consists of bad people choosing to do good things, or ordinary people striving to overcome what's bad in the world. (So maybe I'm misinterpreting it a little, in my sense of wanting to believe people have a good core that comes out in hard times. Or maybe that's the "ordinary people striving to overcome the bad")

And here's a longer article about it, where the writer (writing mainly, I guess, about working through mental illness using their blog) relates it to bigger things.

And yeah, the whole "Jesus and Buddha and Gandhi and Martin Luther King, Jr." quotation, not only does it sound a bit like Madeline L'Engle (who wrote a lot of what probably could be called hopepunk) but also suggests it's NOT just "ordinary" or even "bad" people. Yes, Gandhi and King had their imperfections (And I don't know much about the Buddha), but they TRIED.

And yeah. Maybe I'm too hard on myself because (a) I can't do much even though I try to do what I can and (b) I'm far from perfect as a person: I'm acquisitive, and can be petty, and can get into one of those "no one loves me so I might as well go eat worms" cycles which I know is unfair to my friends who DO love me but maybe don't do as much propping-up of me as I feel like I need - not through any fault of their own, I AM pretty needy, and all my friends have complicated lives with kids or aging parents or their own health issues or or or....

But I like the idea of "Yeah, there's bad stuff in the world, but instead of either making it worse or just sitting down and giving up, maybe we resist the bad stuff in whatever way we can." Maybe for some people that means running for elected office to try to make things better. (And good luck and Godspeed to them; I don't think politics is terribly friendly to most idealists). For some people that might mean something like training your dog as a therapy dog and going to hospitals or nursing homes to try to make people's lives better. For some people that might mean working to help ease food insecurity in their community. Maybe for some people, it's trying to be kind and helpful. Maybe that's enough? I hope that's enough, because a lot of days that's all I can manage.

(I think also one of the insidious things that does work against hope in our society right now is the idea that if you're not doing big giant things, if you're not, I don't know, chaining yourself to the front gates of some factory doing Bad Things or marching on Washington or all those things....that you're not doing Enough and you might as well not do anything. It's kind of like the parable of the Rich Young Man, at least in some interpretations - where Jesus tells him fundamentally to give up everything that makes life worth living, and then maybe he'll earn his way into Heaven, and of course, one of the Christian interpretations of this is that none of us is really good enough on our own, even if we DO sell everything we have and give all the money to the poor. (And I would argue: that means then we join the poor, as well, and I'm not sure plunging oneself into abject poverty solves much)

But also maybe the idea of holding on and telling yourself "things will get better" or "there are good things going on in the world" is part of this.

And it is still Hope week of Advent (until Sunday, and then the next week is...Love, I think? Or maybe Peace. I know the third week is Joy....). A couple years ago I reflected on that, riffing on a theologian's quote about hope being "ridiculous." And I suppose it is if you look at the world coldly and cynically: there's a lot of bad stuff going on, people have always treated one another badly (And despite how bad it looks now? There were times in the past when people were *worse* to one another).

I also think of something the minister mentioned last week: that Advent, at least taken seriously, is counter-cultural. (Heck, I think there's perhaps a lot about faith that, if you take it seriously - at least, my particular faith, and how I interpret what we are guided to do - that is kind of counter-cultural. And yes, I do believe if Jesus had walked the earth in the 1980s he would have sat at the bedsides of AIDS patients, no matter what some other Christians might have said....and that where ever people are rejected or marginalized, He'd be there, eating with them and talking with them. Even perhaps people like Jeff Bezos or Elon Musk....don't forget that tax collectors were hated in those days not just because they allied with Rome but because they also figured out ways to 'skim off the top,' taking advantage of the other citizens. Granted, at least one tax collector changed his ways, or so the Gospel recounts, but....I suspect that whatever category of people you despise, He'd be there, either expressing sympathy and care (like with the AIDS patients) or maybe doing a stern-but-gentle talking to (the businessman who isn't quite as fair with his employees as he might be).

And Anne Lamott once said: "You can be pretty sure you've created God in your own image if He hates all the same people you do."  I think that's kind of a damning sentiment because I have known many, many Christians all across the spectrum of politics/social attitudes who were CONVINCED that they had the Received Wisdom that God hated (fill in the blanks: gay people, rich people, certain politicians, Muslims, atheists, 'uppity' women...). And really, while I think God (if I may be very anthropomorphic here) feels DISMAY at the stuff humans get up to, I do not think "hate" - at least not of a person - is in God's make-up. I've even known ministers who deeply deplored certain politician's policies and attitudes but *still prayed for them* and that's kind of a breathtaking thing and yes, maybe they're praying that their hearts and minds will be changed but I think that's OK, that's suggesting the person isn't totally lost, isn't totally damned, and there's still hope for them.)

But yes. Hope is kind of ridiculous and some people would say you're deluding yourself to hope for things getting better. But living as if there's no hope is no way to live. And so maybe people like me need "hopepunk" stories, or those redemption narratives (where Clarence gets his wings, or the other reindeer decide to become Rudolph's friend after all, and Rudolph forgives then, or Buddy's biological dad winds up with a better nicer job than what he had before, and gets a best-selling kid's book out of it, or Bishop Henry Brogham and his wife wind up closer than ever, and he decides to stay with the small struggling church because it needs him....and and and). And a lot of Christmas stories ARE redemption narratives on some level, and that does seem good and right, because Christmas is - in the Christian worldview at least - the setting-in-motion of the biggest redemption ever.

And maybe that's part of why I love Christmas: there seems to be more open hope and less cynicism than other times of the year, and it helps wash away some of the cynicism and sadness that encrust my heart like barnacles.

Edited to add: a longer article, apparently from the person who can take credit for the term. It gets more political. (And I am really not that political, other than noting that simple solutions to big problems are often bad solutions). I dunno. I can't be that kind of hopepunk; I can only be the one who strives to be kind, sometimes perhaps a bit sacrificially kind.

I will say I'm feeling uncommonly worn right now: worn from all the grading, worn from all the requests on the part of students: "Can I take the final early?" "Can I take the final late?" "Can I hand this late work in?"

also worn because the advanced stats class I thought was for this fall? Is for this spring, and has one student in it. I won't get paid extra for the extra work. I told my chair with that limited of lead time it would be "bad," and if the student was okay with it being "bad," I would do it, but dear God I would rather not. Prepping a new class while teaching others is a very particular Hell and I thought it was one I was done with.

And now the last: someone scheduled to present in class today has e-mailed me their presentation and I don't know if that means they expect me to download it to a flashdrive for them and bring it to class (I did download it) or if they aren't going to be here and are hoping I'll give them credit anyway and I just don't even know any more and I want to sit down and cry for a very long time because I am just tired and not a lot of things have gone my way recently.

I feel like I have given and given and given some more, and yet, there are still hands stretched out to me wanting more. And when I ask for a little, it's not exactly forthcoming.

1 comment:

Roger Owen Green said...

I have tired of the narratives that find everyone's imperfections, because they all - JFK, RFK, MLK, Malcolm X, John Lennon, GHW Bush - I spent too much time (lightly) defending the latter, and I never even voted for him