THE BLOG

Ebony and Irony: Think Critically, or Hope?

01/10/2009 05:12 am ET | Updated Feb 08, 2012
  • Kelly Carlin Writer; Performer; Radio Host; Author, 'A Carlin Home Companion'

So, it seems the NY intellectual cognoscenti (I've always wanted to use that word, but have been afraid to for fear that I would mispronounce it, so I'm thrilled that I am not reading this aloud right now), anyway, some NY folkhttp://www.nytimes.com/2008/11/23/fashion/23irony.html?scp=7&sq=andy%20newman&st=cse"> in a piece in the NY Times, were falling all over themselves to determine whether irony is allowed during the recent Obama hope-fest.

I don't claim to know much, but here's what I do know. Thinking critically and having hope are not mutually exclusive states of mind. These professional ironists think that if you have hope you are naïve, ignorant or maybe even plain dumb. But I beg to differ.

Hope could be seen as a state of mind that is hard wired into us all. Without it, most of us probably won't be getting out of bed and brushing our teeth tomorrow. Now, if we are talking about blind hope - well, that is something different, and I would not recommend it; I do believe that this is how they get you to drink the Kool-Aid.

But the hope I'm talking about is connected with our unique and amazing human ability to use one's imagination to envision a new outcome, a different path, a new way - and God knows, we need a lot of that right now.

Being able to fluidly move between hope and ironical skepticism (or any two opposing points of view) is indeed a sign of higher intelligence. Being stuck in either hope or skepticism (or cynicism or anything else on that side of the scale) seems a much more naïve and ignorant place to me.

I have had my own struggle with all this for the last few years. My father, George Carlin, was the master of bemused detachment, and I thank God for that. Without his brilliant take on how monumentally stupid we can be as human beings, the world would not have felt as safe as it did to me and many of his fans. He made us all think, reframe, and of course laugh in the process. But for a while, I was worried that his stance had removed any scrap of optimism and hope in him, and being some one of a younger generation who will be on this planet for at least the next 20-30 years, God willing (another topic for conversation with dad), and well I need a little hope in my day, and needed him to give me a little hope too. So, being my father's daughter, I challenged him on it. I said to him, "If you have given up on the human species as you claim, then why bother to get on stage and say anything at all? You clearly want to wake us up on some level, if so, then you must have some hope left in you somewhere." And he agreed, begrudgingly, but he agreed.

Now, I'm not saying that hope is all "the shit," and that we all have to skip around singing la la la la la all day long. Trust me, hope has led me astray for sure -- staying in an abusive relationship and then a truly unfulfilling marriage were both fueled by hope -- but it was very, very blind hope. Hope that refused to read the signs, see the truth: I'd call it Full Denial Hope. I do not recommend that kind of hope in any circumstance.

What kind of hope am I asking you to have? I guess I would call it Conscious Hope - where you are willing to hold a possibility that something can be different, and yet check in with reality too. Everything is made from thought. This is not some kind of mumbo jumbo woo woo bullshit. Think about it. The Brooklyn Bridge did not exist until some one imagined it in his mind, communicated this vision and then implemented it into reality. Without the imaginative leap to say, "Hey this is what it could look like," there could never be a bridge. But, then you have to roll up your sleeves and get to work.

So, here we are on the brink of a major era for America and the world. If you could let yourself hope, even if it is for just a few minutes, what might your imagination come up with? If you are a cynic, or a skeptic or an ironist, you use your mind all the time to assess, analyze and conclude. Why not use that part that rarely gets used and could use a little exercise -- why not try a little "Yes We Can" thinking? Check out of your head and into your heart. What does it want? What is it craving? What does it want to create?

These arguments about hope vs. irony are emblematic of what needs to change. It isn't that hope or irony are wrong, what's wrong is that we think we need to pit them against each other, and that they can't co-exist. The old lines in the sand are being erased on every level. The old, "Us vs. Them" is just so 20th century. This is an integral age where minds are ready to hold the tension of opposites and create from the unique energy that is created in that very tension. So bring on the hope, bring on the irony, let's roll up our sleeves and get to work.