So, (as I’ve been asked recently) what have I surmised about the world and its peoples? Am I still optimistic about the world and its peoples, or are we a lost cause?
I feel like I’m still pretty optimistic, although not for the expected reasons. I do not expect good things from the human race because of all the good things I’ve seen (although I have seen a lot of good things). There are still so many not-good things out there. I’m optimistic because of the tremendous diversity we’re capable of. While I can find fault with American culture on many points, and I can perhaps find fault with Indian culture on many points, I can at least take comfort in knowing that neither one is the last word on what kind of society people are capable of creating. In a world where there are so many abuses and so many needs unmet, I find it very encouraging that we haven’t run out of options.
Anthropologist Clifford Geertz wrote, “Imagining difference (which of course does not mean making it up, but making it evident) remains a science of which we all have need.” That for me is the whole value and purpose of anthropology (and of literature and the arts for that matter). Once we realize the infinite possibilities of human nature, we finally are in a position to choose who we are going to be and how we will live our lives.
Now, of course it’s going to take a lot of work to have a whole society changed by that kind of vision. That’s why there’s such a great need in the world for poet-saints. But, alas, not much of a paycheck.