Way, way TMI. You’ve been warned.
Can’t say I understand hope. It seems to be a blend of faith and love: if you believe that, in the end, we win, or rather, we ride the coattails of the Victor, then you have hope. This faith that everything turns out well in the end is inextricable from love, it seems to me, as a love of this vision, of justice and goodness, is needed, else the faith soon dies.
This is not what is meant by hope? It is a separate virtue? Or only separable in the abstract? Is hope the actualization of faith & love? Or something else entirely? I don’t know.
Yet, I feel the hope I don’t understand. On every level of life, from getting up in the morning to do what needs to be done that day, to persevering in the sight of mindless rampage, of cynical manipulation, of the appearances of the victory of evil – even in the valley of the shadow of death, a ray of hope breaks through.
And to me, it really is breaking through, from the outside. Half a lifetime ago, faced with despair, I put myself at the mercies of the psychological profession for a season. Crazy, right? What I found out: by the measures that profession uses, I was seriously depressed, as in, there are people institutionalized (so I was told) that aren’t as depressed as I was. The nice therapist lady was, I think, trying to get me take it seriously. She also said that my frustrations over a lifetime of massive underachievement did not take into account how much of my energy was required to hold it together, to maintain a facade of functionality.
Well. This was supposed to be helpful, I suppose. Maybe it even was. Hard to tell.
That was a long time ago, 30 years of marriage and 5 children ago. One odd thing: while I was certainly willing to run the ‘can I eat myself to death?’ protocol, that was it. I have no idea why drugs and alcohol have no appeal to me – seems like they should. Neither does suicide. There are definitely times I wish I weren’t alive, but I’d never actively do anything to make that come about. Somehow, I’ve muddled through. Somehow, we all have.
But – the paradox: I remain one of the happiest people I know. I have 4 living children who love me, and, perhaps more important, love each other. One dead son any man would be proud of. And a loving wife who has put up with all this for 35+ years. I live in a land of plenty in a time of peace. And God loves me.
That last part isn’t a theoretical conclusion nor an act of faith. Things have happened to me. I have been cared for in inexplicable ways. I could no sooner deny that God loves me than I can reject the evidence of my eyes. One can come up with theories, just as one can convince one’s self that we live in the Matrix. Possible – but unconvincing. And, ultimately and by definition, insane.
In the same way, not all the time, but often, I see or rather feel rays of hope. Something from outside me lets me know it will be OK.
Blind Pollyanna? Nope, I’m about as gimlet-eyed in my view of the world as anybody. As Machiavelli said, you have to govern as if all men are animals, for they will sooner or later act like it. But – hope. We can be better. I can be better.
So maybe, today, I work on some short stories or novels or compositions that my fear of failure (and, possibly, an even greater fear of success) have moved me to set aside, often for years and decades. Perhaps I do something good, to shake a fist at the towering tidal wave of angry stupidity that looks like it’s about to break on top of us all.
Something makes me feel that wave will break short of the shore, kick up a mountain of foam, get everybody damp – and that’s it.
One can hope.