Why Hope Matters, An Essay About the Power of Believing in a Better, Brighter Future
How on Earth can Hope Spring Eternal in a World Like Ours?
Recently I found myself reading Oryx and Crake by Margaret Atwood and The Road and No Country for Old Men by Cormac McCarthy. These books are dark and brooding, and both Atwood and McCarthy are experts at drawing a world that is blackened by spiritual and moral darkness beyond the catastrophic and cataclysmic world scenarios that surround them. I found these books chilling to the bone not only because they focused on end of the world scenarios, but because they featured characters whose lives were consumed by a gigantic, hopeless moral void.
The problem with reading too many of these books at once is that while they make for page-turning and sometimes voyeuristic reading, they can be profoundly depressing. For me, dystopian stories can take me to places I never ever wanted to experience in person or in the world of imagination. Humanly and spiritually speaking, dystopian stories can be real downers. For days after reading these books my mind is caught in a miasma of negativity and hopelessness that can't be healthy. Or can it?
As a reader my reaction to a dystopian novel or movie is to look for the ray of hope at the end of the story. Yes, humanity is capable of reprehensible and violent acts, many of which are far too ugly to consider for long, but what about hope? Hope isn't dead!
Without hope men are only half alive. With hope they dream and think and work.— Charles Sawyer
Finding Hope in Some Unusual Places
The vision of dystopian writers isn't my vision of the world as it is now, nor as it likely will be. Unlike the dystopian worlds in the stories of Mcarthy and Atwood and other writers, much of our world is populated by decent, civil human beings who care about what happens to the planet and to each other.
Of course there are the wars, murders, and many other evils. But for each of these things, are art, beauty, discovery, and invention.
On any given day I can walk into the streets of my own neighborhood and enjoy the beauty of hundreds of my neighbor's flowering landscapes. Here in my city the people take pride in growing things that look beautiful in their own front yards. These people care about their community and it shows.
Collaborations in Medecine and Science Lead to Breakthroughs
Just on the radio today I heard that the largest superconductor in the world has been repaired and has set new records for splitting atomic particles. Scientists are now poised to learn more about the nature of atomic particles. Wouldn't it be amazing if we learned something completely mind blowing about those quarks, leptons, and other strange elements we were just beginning to discover 10 or 15 years ago? This type of scientific study and search for understanding makes me hopeful about the future.
During difficult times, people seem to be seeking for hopeful stories to fuel their imagination for a better tomorrow. During the 1930s, Horatio Alger stories became wildly popular. These stories were known for their rags to riches characteristics, where poor people in indigent circumstances were able to rise above obstacles with hard work and creativity to find wild and unlikely business success.
Isn't Susan Boyle like a modern day Horatio Alger? Her lovely voice shocked millions who are inspired by the magnificent talent hidden behind an unlikely exterior. We are a world of voyeurs looking for greatness in unlikely places, and such unlikely stories feed our hope in humanity. Over 70 million views of Susan Boyle's "I Have a Dream" video on Youtube says I am not the only person who finds hope in her story. But Susan Boyle isn't alone.
Look at your own children or your neighbor's children if you don't have any. My daughter often surprises me with the insight and wisdom she shows. She writes beautiful poetry that shows a care for her environment and surroundings. I know that if I offer her some hope, that she will take up the torch magnificently. She really cares about her future, and so do I. She and my other children are also a source of inspiration to me.
It has never been, and never will be, easy work! But the road that is build on hope is more pleasant to the traveler than the road built on despair, even though they both lead to the same destination.— Marian Zimmer Bradley
Solving All the Problems of the World in One Simple Word
I wish it were that easy. But of course it isn't. The world is plagued with problems too numerous to list here. And I don't deny there are some big problems and evil people out there. But I'm talking about something else. It is a tiny seed when planted in a fertile imagination, it can take root and blossom into a fantastic vision of a better world.
But don't buy into hopeless thinking. Our future is full of possibilities, and I'm putting my bets on the beautiful ones. Why?
A civil dialog is more possible than ever. The Internet makes having a civil dialogue with our neighbors in other parts of the country and the world more possible. While clashes about beliefs are inevitable, we are more able to have a dialog about the issues that matter to us than at any time in the world. Whatever the current, divisive political issue at hand, we have the tools to bring real solutions readily available.
The economic problems faced during the recent housing crisis have turned people's hearts toward each other. People in hard-hit communities are reaching out to each other to find creative solutions to their problems. I don't mean to gloss over this difficult economic crisis, but people really do seem more focused on reaching out to their neighbors and being citizens within a community when hard times hit.
People and businesses are looking at creative solutions to old problems. It is often recovery from difficult times like ours that leads to a renaissance of creative thinking and problem solving. When people try to learn from their experiences, a new individual strength is forged.
Wars and divisive political conflicts exist, and won't likely disappear any time soon. But many nations in the world are working together to find solutions to mind-boggling problems like global warming and endemic diseases. Not only are nations trying to create a better earth by legislating heavily polluting industries, but individuals at a grass-roots level are trying to make the world a better place by making more responsible decisions about what to buy, how to use water, and how to eat. Citizenship in America is resurging, with Americans joining in the political process and getting more involved in government.
As a parent, hope for a better future fuels my deeds today. I have three young children who will inherit the world I leave them. I feel a biological need to give them the intellectual and moral tools they will need to survive and thrive in their world. While I am trying to pass on knowledge, education, and values, I also need to give them a vision of a better world. I don't want my children losing hope in their own future, so I cannot afford to give up on my own.
Hope is like a road in the country; there was never a road, but when many people walk on it, the road comes into existence.— Lin Yutang
© 2009 Carolyn Augustine