In early adulthood I was fascinated with the work of Victor Frankl, holocaust survivor and author of “Man’s Search for Meaning” and logotherapy. His psychiatric practice was based on observations of those with whom he was interned in the concentration camps. Given similar opportunities to survive, some succumbed to the horrendous conditions and died of “natural causes” and others (including Frankl) not only survived, but were able to build productive lives from the ashes.
This gave me a foundational understanding of the theological concept of “hope” – not wishful thinking in some naïve Pollyanna universe, but a drive to survive and thrive in spite of dire circumstances. The much maligned Hebrew prophet, Jeremiah is probably the biblical version of Frankl. He was given the unpopular charge of warning Israel that its unjust ways during its economic “boom” time would lead to its downfall. After the nation’s population is invaded and relocated faraway in exile, Jeremiah becomes the tender voice of hope and encouragement.
Has there ever been a time in our collective history where the melancholy optimist has not played a significant role?