This is a controversial quality, one of the more difficult topics I’ve attempted. Consider that the philosopher Frederick Nietzsche said “Hope is the worst of evils for it prolongs the torment of man.” Most of us understand where Nietzsche was coming from with this opinion. We sometimes feel set up by Hope when whatever it is we earnestly Hope for remains unfulfilled. Physicians are often criticized for offering Hope when a medical outcome is uncertain. “False Hope” is one of the most well known phrases on the planet. All that being said, I’d like to try to shed light on the usefulness of the concept of Hope as optimism. This is distinct from Hope as expectation or anticipation.
What we see or experience is influenced by our attitude. A hopeless or pessimistic point of view cloaks our world in darkness, blocking out the light of understanding and making clarity impossible. To me, the idea of Hope is equivalent to turning on the lights in a dark space. Nature does this every day. (And most days we’re glad of it!)
Optimism can be described as looking for light (or Hope) in every situation. To some this comes easy. It is their natural bent and they cannot be otherwise. It may be either inspiring or annoying to be around these Hope infused individuals.
Historically, if we look at Hope on a grand scale, we think of Nelson Mandela imprisoned for twenty-six years and never giving up on his mission to end Apartheid or Martin Luther King envisioning the possibility of equal opportunity for all Americans. The facts that Nelson Mandela became president of South Africa and we now have a black man as US. President is testimony to Hope. Of course, it takes a great many other qualities in concert with Hope to achieve this level of positive change in intractable situations.
Bringing it back to a personal level, we have an attitude choice in every moment of our lives. When we bring the light of Hope to a situation, we are empowering ourselves to move forward on a path toward bettering our lives and ourselves.
We often don’t know where the path leads but at least we can see our way forward. We’re no longer stuck.
The Occupy Wall Street action that has spread around the nation and around the world is a current example of a movement born out of despair and frustration but inspired by Hope for a better life. It is a stand against economic disparity and the absence of a level playing field in the marketplace. Historically there have been other such movements driven primarily by economic inequality. Whether discrimination is based on gender, race, or socio-economic level it is fundamentally about power. The dis-empowered need the light of Hope to fuel their protests and keep the spark alive that allows their numbers to swell.
Unlike the Civil Rights movement in America or the anti-Apartheid struggle in South Africa, Occupy Wall Street has had no clear leaders emerge. This may be a good thing at this early stage of its evolution. Yes, there is the danger that the energy will peter out in the absence of leadership. However, in the age of social media and personal mindfulness we may be witnessing, as we did in the Arab Spring, a genuine grassroots uprising that speaks truth to power by the sheer force of it’s numbers and conviction. This headline and photo from China are illustrative. Stay tuned!