Wednesday, 2 April 2014

On Balancing Hope

I don't know if all societies are as obsessed with "hope" as we are, and I don't know if the obsession with hope is modern or ages old.  In my mind, our blanket encouragement to "never give up hope," to think of hope as ever and always virtuous, a sign of strength and courage, neglects to recognize a complicated dance.  Hope can be sustaining, hope can be the very last wisp of worth left for a person to grasp to in their life.  Hope too can cause pain.  It can be a way to deny and turn away from grief and pain, in others or in oneself, and thereby prevent acknowledgment of real or inevitable loss and the preparations - practical, emotional, interpersonal, spiritual - that come with it.  Sometimes, in my opinion, hope should be released to make way for an embracing of reality; or perhaps what I mean is that hope for one thing must be replaced with hope for another: That of finding peace with what is or what will be.

I do not know if it has been borne from life in a western world in which premature death and suffering is now rare and thus we are unaccustomed to grief and pain, or if it is ages old, but I see our obsession with hope, with "staying positive," to be a way of letting our discomfort with pain and grief shape our reactions to it, leaving those who suffer sometimes feeling muted, disallowed from expressing the reality of their life experience in both its beauty and misery.

I wish that we could reexamine our feelings about unobservant positivity, and acknowledge the complexities of hope and the entire scope of living as human.  I think that facing and exploring pain is a part of becoming a fully whole and grown human, and I think that sometimes reaching for (hoping for?) that peace instead, that understanding and growth, is healthier than clinging to hope for the improbable or impossible.

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