H is for hope
Updated: Dec 16, 2021
“While there’s life, there is hope.” – Stephen Hawking, The Theory of Everything
To have hope is to desire an outcome that makes your life better in some way. The act of having hope can help make a current difficult situation more bearable but can also generally improve our lives because envisioning a better future motivates us to take the steps to make it happen.
Aristotle said, “Hope is the dream of the waking man.” Hope is the unshakeable belief that no matter how bad our circumstances that somehow, someway, everything will turn out alright or even better for us in the end.
“The very least you can do in your life is figure out what you hope for. And the most you can do is live inside that hope. Not admire it from a distance but live right in it, under its roof.” Barbara Kingsolver
Above all it is important to remember that hope is not just a vague dream but it has specific goals and requires action on our part to make opportunities for what we desire to happen. Hope is a virtue that helps us fight the temptation to despair or cynicism, but it is more than that, hope is a verb – a doing word –it is a skill that you have to work at your whole life so you can rise to face the vicissitudes of life.
“Hope can be a powerful force. Maybe there’s no actual magic in it, but when you know what you hope for most and hold it like a light within you, you can make things happen, almost like magic.” Laini Taylor
I have been listening to a lot of Ted Talks recently on the subject of hope and a lot of the literature I have read tied in with the general idea that the opposite of hope is despair but one talk I listened to (On hope and hopelessness: Murray Watts at TEDxGlasgow – see link below) rejected the general consensus and said that cynicism is the opposite of hope not despair which to me made a lot of sense because when you are in despair it is possible to still cling on to the hope that things can improve but when you become cynical then you lose all hope that things can change. Cynicism creates a state of mind where nothing changes; nothing can ever surprise you again and unfortunately we find cynicism across the breadth of our culture.
‘We need ecologies of hope, we need environments in which hope can flourish’ Chief Rabbi
In the study ‘Ecologies of Hope: environment, technology and habitation’ Rajan and Duncan discuss various specific solutions to local problems and the importance of focusing on the present moment and how it is small everyday initiatives that lead to effective change (see article below)
“All of these cases are of self-organized communities thinking and acting very contextually and specifically. Despite considerable differences in context – for example, in class and regional backgrounds, and in political ideologies and strategic objectives, the five cases represent attempts, by groups of people around the world, to focus on the here and the now, and in so doing, to carve out niches for survival, where prospects otherwise might have been bleak, or to extend new paths for social betterment. We call these new niches and pathways ecologies of hope – referring people to everyday initiatives, around the world, that do not make revolutionary claims, but which in small but significant ways, help transform the lives of people and communities. “
Journal of political ecology Journal Vol 20 2013 S. Ravi Rajan and Colin Duncan: Ecologies of Hope: environment, technology and habitation – case studies from the intervenient middle.
So how do we create ecologies of hope?
“Hope begins in the dark, the stubborn hope that if you just show up and try to do the right thing, the dawn will come. You wait and watch and work: you don’t give up.” Anne Lamott
Building hope is about taking the long view i.e. “Gardening today shows hope in tomorrow.”
We need to live in the present and be grateful because to be fully present is to be fully alive. To be fully alive we need to express the full gamut of our emotions and not just ‘play half the keys of a piano’.
There is a ‘culture of celebrity’ which pervades our lives through non-stop advertising which makes us yearn for a different life. We need to replace this with a ‘culture of celebration’, where we celebrate life and things we do have.
Creating an ecology cannot be done overnight it takes consistent, incremental steps
‘I am done with great things and big plans, great institutions and big successes. I am for those tiny, invisible loving human forces that work from individual to individual creeping through the crannies of the world like so many rootlets or like the capillary oozing of water yet which if given time will rend the hardest monuments of human pride’ William James
”In fact, hope is best gained after defeat and failure, because then inner strength and toughness is produced.” Fritz Knapp
We need to change from a ‘culture of technological communication’ to a ‘culture of meaningful communion and connection’ where a meeting of minds leads to empathy and understanding, shared complimentary skills and creates communities of like-minded people. Compassion and vulnerability combined with the skill of listening are essential as is the time spent in communion with nature.
“Stay positive and happy. Work hard and don’t give up hope. Be open to criticism and keep learning. Surround yourself with happy, warm and genuine people.” Tena Desae
What are ‘hope thieves’?
It is easy for us to allow ourselves to become ‘hope thieves’ taking away our hope whether it is through our words to ourselves (our negative self-talk) or believing in the labels that others give us. Similarly we can also take away the hope of others when we label or categorise people by the ‘bad’ things they do e.g. ‘x’ is a gossip, ‘y’ is a drunk etc..
”A positive statement propels hope toward a better future, it builds up your faith and that of others, and it promotes change.” Jan Dargatz
We are much more than the labels we give ourselves or others give to us. We need to challenge and not blindly accept any labels we are given; we can become anybody we put our minds to particularly when we have support from others.
“Our human compassion binds us the one to the other – not in pity or patronizingly, but as human beings who have learnt how to turn our common suffering into hope for the future.” Nelson Mandela
We never fully know what people are going through or are capable of and what support they need to become the best version of themselves so, as much as it is tempting sometime, we shouldn’t give up on others or reduce them by naming them or judging them by the things we see as their ‘wrongdoings’ because when we do so, not only do we hurt them, we hurt our communities and in so doing we hurt ourselves and we hurt our world. I think that is alright to define boundaries, but by being critical, judging or gossiping we put up barriers and that is not ok because we make it harder for people to re-enter into better communion and connection and become who they really are or who they can be.
“The miserable have no other medicine but only hope.” William Shakespeare
To support an ecology of hope, we need to be supportive and learn to forgive and seek to understand making hope like a life ring that we can tie around ourselves as well as being something we can throw to help others when they need it.
“Optimism is the faith that leads to achievement. Nothing can be done without hope and confidence.” Helen Keller
Some questions to think about/or discuss below:
What do you hope for?
What specific goals have you set and what action are you taking to create the opportunities to achieve the thing you hope for?
Who have you allowed to diminish your hope? Yourself? Others?
Are you a hope thief or a hope giver?
How are you contributing to developing ecologies of hope in your life and relationships, your local community and globally?
If you want to explore this subject further, here are a few links to get you started:
On hope and hopelessness: Murray Watts at TEDxGlasgow
Thieves of hope
Kyle Robertson TEDxSantaCruz - The Philosophy of Hope & Despair
Fifi Baiden - Hope is a verb
Ecologies of Hope: environment, technology and habitation - case studies from the intervenient middle S. Ravi Rajan and Colin A.M. Duncan1 University of California, Santa Cruz, USA Queen's University, Canada
“Let your hopes, not your hurts, shape your future.” Robert H. Schuller