This weekend, I finished reading a book called The Light Brigade, by Kameron Hurley. The story is set in a futuristic war where soldiers are teleported to and from the battlefield. Except the teleporters don’t always work right. For Private Dietz, this means she keeps getting teleported through space and time, and thus she ends up experiencing the whole war in the wrong order.
I loved this book. Highly recommended! There’s a lot of thought-provoking stuff. Today I’d like to zero in on just one passage among the many that resonated with me:
Did you know those who are mildly depressed see the world more accurately? Yet they don’t live as long as optimists. Aren’t as successful. It turns out that being able to perceive actual reality has very little long-term benefits. It’s those who believe in something larger than themselves of thrive. We all seem to need a little bit of delusion to function in the world.
Is that too cynical? Maybe. Private Dietz is something of a cynical woman. But that doesn’t mean she’s wrong.
To put it another way, I think pessimism can become a self-fulfilling prophecy. People who give up hope tend to stop trying, to stop fighting for anything better. Maybe optimism is a survival mechanism, almost like an evolutionary advantage that keeps some people going when others would rather give up.
But being an optimist is not so easy. Sometimes you have to make a conscious choice to believe things will work out okay. You have to stubbornly insist that there’s still hope despite what seems like pretty compelling evidence to the contrary.
At least that’s been my experience, and (spoiler warning, sort of) somewhere in her personal timeline, maybe Private Dietz learned that lesson as well.