Style Observer

THE OPTIMISTS - Odette Dixon Neath

Communications strategist

Sunday, November 11, 2018

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It seemed the right thing to do ahead of diving straight into the 'silly season', and in this time of incredible love and hate, confidence and fear, fake news and alternative truths, to hear shared voices of optimism. SO asked the question: What's your take on optimism?

Hang on to the world as it spins around

Just don't let the spin get you down

Things are moving fast

Hold on tight and you will last

Now an R&B standard, the lyrics ofSomeday We'll All Be Freewere written by Edward Howard for his friend Donny Hathaway, then in the throes of mental anguish. That the song would later become a rallying cry for the American Civil Rights movement is a testament to the strength of its premise — the idea that finding a reason to believe in the future, being optimistic, is exactly what will see us through.

In a time of wall-to-wallInstagramgratification and the cult of personality, is optimism still a thing? I think so. No, I hope so. Because if this is all there is, then we have nothing.

It is, after all, optimism that moves us to get up out of bed each morning and put one foot in front of the other. It is optimism that moves us to be kind when we have been hurt; to love when we have been shunned.

I discoveredSomeday We'll All be Freewhile curating what I wanted to be the ultimate holiday playlist. This was pre-Spotify and Apple Music so one had actually to buy a whole CD to get one song. Hathaway'sThis Christmaswas my target, the perfect mistletoe, sleighbell ditty that was necessary for any holiday soundtrack. But before I got to that song there was delicate flute and guitar intro ofSomeday We'll All Be Freefollowed by opening waves of warmth that defines Hathaway's voice. It was as if time stood still. Here with clarity and simplicity was the carpet on which all dreams can ascend. Hope, encouragement, belief and freedom.

Take it from me, someday we'll all be free

It won't be long, take it from me, someday we'll all be free

Above all, optimism is at the core of our humanity. And even at times when we post perfect narratives of our lives for all the world to see, there is still place for an unflinching belief in an even more real perfection. But you see optimism cannot flourish by itself. It must be lifted with gratitude, because as we desire more, we must also be thankful for what we have in hand.

The CD with theSomeday We'll All Be Freeis now long gone, and the song is always at the ready on any of the multiple devices that store or stream modern entertainment. For some reason I find space in every overscheduled week to play it: in the car as I barrel through traffic or on the sound system while fudging through Saturday house chores.

Hathaway, who was diagnosed with paranoid schizophrenia, committed suicide in 1979. The stark irony of the beauty of the song and the trajectory of the life of the man who gifted it to the world lurks in the shadows each time I listen. Perhaps that even further deepens its purpose.

Take it from me, take it from me, take it from me

But even in that darkness it remains an echo of our best hopes. This is, after all, what optimism sounds like.

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