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#777 The flower of hope blossoms in darkness

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Saussurea obvallata blooms only in the dark; photo by T G Santosh (Own work) [CC-BY-SA-3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

When Dr. Larry Brilliant won the 2006 TED Prize, he made an outrageous wish: “Help me stop pandemics.” That might seem as likely as stopping the rise of the sun in the east, but the good doctor has reason to believe it is possible. He witnessed the world’s last case of smallpox, a scourge that killed an estimated 300 million people in the 20th century alone.

His work with the World Health Organization’s smallpox-eradication project began when his Indian guru, Karoli Baba, told him to ditch the dress, don a three-piece suit, become a diplomat with the United Nations and work for WHO. Brilliant told the TED audience his guru predicted “that smallpox would be eradicated, and that this was God’s gift to humanity because of the hard work of dedicated scientists.”

The success of that work is just one of a string of accomplishments that dot Brilliant’s life like diamonds on a necklace, but it is one of his chief reasons for remaining optimistic in spite of pandemics, climate change, poverty and inequality, wars over resources and all the other ills facing the planet.

He told a TED audience in 2007:

A disease which killed hundreds of thousands in India, and blinded half of all of those who were made blind in India, ended. And most importantly…a bond was created. Doctors, health workers, from 30 different countries, of every race, every religion, every color, worked together, fought alongside each other, fought against a common enemy, didn’t fight against each other. How can that not make you feel optimistic for the future?

That is a reminder we need to repeat over and over. We have been here before, paralyzed by fear, overwhelmed by situations that appeared beyond remedy, certain the flower of hope has died. Yet we are still here. The flower still blossoms, even when it must blossom in the dark like the one in the photo above. As long as people such as those on this blog continue to work for a better world, we will have more than enough reasons for hope.

You can follow Larry Brilliant on Twitter.

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