I received this in my inbox this morning and thought it worth sharing. I must admit agathism is not a word I’m familiar with. I’ve always tried to be an optimist but perhaps to be an agathist is more realistic.
Between the two extremes of optimism and pessimism is agathism – a word well worth holding on to when times turn hard, and it becomes difficult to see a tolerable future.
Coined in 1816, agathism is defined as the doctrine that all things tend eventually to work towards the good, but the means of getting there – and of deciding precisely what constitutes good and bad – might not be easy. It is possible, the agathist believes, for this world to be on an ever improving trajectory while still suffering flaws and setbacks, troubles and countless imperfections. Indeed, sometimes these flaws and setbacks are necessary in order to learn from our mistakes and build and prepare for a fairer, better and more robust world in the future.
Agathism ultimately stands as a more level-headed alternative to optimism and pessimism; elements of both viewpoints are accepted, but the world is not seen so extremely as the ‘best’ or ‘worst’ of anything. For that reason, etymologically agathism simply derives from agathos, a Greek word meaning ‘good’.
Of all the words in the dictionary, agathism is a timely reminder that although things might not be quite so bright right now, they will be brighter in the future. All we have to do is wait, endure the bad times as best we can, and focus on the good times that will – no matter how distant they might feel at the moment – eventually return.
For us who grieve, how the good will return remains to be seen. Life can never be as good as it was but perhaps it can be good in a different way. I hope so.