The Meaning and Nature of Hope - Thoughts, Quotes and a Poem
The Meaning of Hope
Hope is a wonderful state of mind. It infuses life with positivity and gives us a new outlook on the world. Hope provides a patch of sun in a dreary landscape and supports us when life is difficult. A hopeful person recognizes the reality of an unpleasant situation but refuses to be constrained by it.
Although the words hope, wish and expect are often used in the same way, they don't mean the same thing. Wishing involves a desire for a specific outcome that is often unrealistic and unlikely to happen, such as the wish to win a large sum of money in a lottery. An expectation is a firm belief that something will happen. An unfulfilled expectation can be a major disappointment. Hope is more flexible. It's a feeling that something good could emerge from a situation, even if the outcome is not the preferred one.
Hope is the thing with feathers
That perches in the soul
And sings the tune without the words
And never stops at all.— Emily Dickinson
Creativity and the Search
There are two contrasting beliefs about the existence of hope. One idea is that we create hope while the other is that hope already exists and simply needs to be found. Some people think that realistic hope can be created from any situation and that once this hope has been created it’s a perfectly valid and meaningful construct for its creator. Other people regard hope as an entity that is inherent in all situations. They believe that hope can be revealed by careful attention as we notice what is always there but is not always easy to observe.
It’s sometimes necessary to actively search for hope instead of passively waiting for it to appear. An active search doesn’t necessarily mean that we’re creating false hope or that we're deluding ourselves about its presence when no hope actually exists. It simply reflects the fact that hope is sometimes hidden or is not apparent and may need a bit of help - or a bit of creativity, depending on your viewpoint - to appear.
Sometimes other people give us hope by their actions. Encouragement, support and helpful suggestions from others may trigger a feeling of hopefulness and help us to maintain this feeling. In turn, we may be able to help others find hope.
I find hope in the darkest of days, and focus in the brightest. I do not judge the universe.— Dalai Lama
Changing the Route
Having hope often involves working towards a goal. If one route to this goal seems to end, it's often possible to find another one, especially with some creative thinking. If all the routes to a goal seem to be blocked, or if the ability to attain the desired goal is out of a person's control, hope doesn't have to be extinguished. It may be possible to attain a modified goal.
An example of changing the path and direction of hope is shown in the video below. Judy Fridono hoped to change the life of a physically disabled person by training a golden retriever puppy named Ricochet to become a service dog. Ricochet was born and bred for this purpose. Her training began almost as soon as she was born. Although Ricochet learned her lessons well, as she grew older she developed a desire to chase birds, which is unacceptable in a service dog.
Judy's hope faded. Then she thought of another way for Ricochet to help disabled people after she saw the dog jump on to a surfboard in the ocean. Judy trained Ricochet to ride surfboards, an activity that she seems to enjoy. Ricochet now surfs to raise funds to help people with movement problems and also participates in other events to help charities. She has her own Facebook page and is very popular.
Ricochet: From Disappointment to Joy
Pandora's Box and the Spirit of Hope
The Ancient Greek myth of Pandora's box describes how a woman named Pandora stops Hope from escaping. Although myths aren't literally true, they can sometimes reveal truths about existence and are often interesting to examine. The earliest record of the Pandora myth that has been found is in a book called "Words and Days". The book was written by a Greek poet named Hesiod around 700 BCE.
In Hesiod's story, Pandora's box was actually a sealed jar (pithos in Ancient Greek). The jar contained all the evils of life in spirit form as well as the spirit of Hope. A writer named Erasmus is thought to have mistranslated the word pithos into the Latin word pyxos, which means box, when he transcribed the story.
Pandora was the first woman on Earth and was created by the gods. She was given the jar by Zeus, the king of the gods, and told that she must never open it. Zeus knew that her curiosity would get the better of her, which was his plan all along. He wanted to take revenge on humanity because they benefited from the gift of fire given to them by Prometheus, the brother of Pandora's husband. Prometheus stole fire from the gods.
Pandora is unable to resist her desire to see what is inside the jar. She opens it, releasing evil and disease into the world. Pandora quickly closes the jar but is only able to stop Hope from escaping. In some versions of the myth, Hope leaves the jar after Pandora opens it for the second time. Hope's release is said to be due to the fact that Zeus had a change of heart and wanted humans to have solace and support as they dealt with evil.
Why Didn't Hope Escape from Pandora's Box?
Hesiod says that Hope remains under the lip of the jar. He doesn't say why she is the only spirit that fails to escape from the jar. It's also puzzling that Hope is the only positive spirit in a container full of negative ones.
Part of the confusion could be due to the fact that Hesiod's story is not the original one. It might be based on an earlier, slightly different myth. The are some hints in the literature that an earlier story referred to a jar of blessings instead of one containing evils. There is also evidence that Pandora was once regarded as the giver of gifts instead of the releaser of evil.
Some researchers have suggested that Hesiod changed the Pandora myth to suit his misogynist attitude. It's also been suggested that the hope that was trapped in the jar was actually false or unrealistic hope. In this case, the fact that Hope wasn't released was actually a blessing.
"Opening Pandora's Box" is a common saying today. It refers to a decision or action which could lead to a lot of trouble. I think the most interesting part of the Pandora myth is the reference to hope, however. One interpretation of the myth is that Hope is lying in waiting, ready and eager to emerge from her hiding place to help us whenever we release and accept her.
The wings of hope carry us, soaring high about the driving winds of life.— Ana Jacob
The Ebb and Flow of Hope
For some lucky people, hope is an old friend that never deserts them. For others, hope seems to ebb and flow like the tide, growing and then subsiding for a while.
Hope sometimes seems like a seedling that breaks through the soil after winter as the light returns. Like a growing seedling and its opening buds, true hope predicts a productive future. Some seeds are unable to germinate, however, or seedings are crushed or suffocated by debris, too weak to push their way past obstacles. Just like a struggling plant, hope may be unable to emerge or may flicker and then vanish. Luckily, just as the earth receives new seeds full of potential, new and viable seeds of hope can be planted in our minds.
Hope is being able to see that there is light despite all the darkness.— Desmond Tutu
I found hope again today,
a tiny bud of joy,
that could perhaps unfurl
and grow delightedly,
or shrivel with a sigh
and sink to earth again,
dejected and forlorn.
I like to visit every day
to see how hope survives.
Sometimes I find a slender shoot
that struggles for the sun
and whispers secret happiness,
or surges up towards the light
with power and sympathy.
But then hope disappears,
concealed by earth and dross,
or choked by spider web,
unable to expand,
battered by distress
and hidden by distrust,
alone and inaccessible.
You thought you’d dug in deep
and crushed all life away;
but hope hides carefully
and sleeps through time and pain,
dreaming of release
and then - I hope -
awakens wide and brilliantly.
© 2010 Linda Crampton