There are different kinds of hope--you can hope to win the lottery, which is a kind of empty hope, one you may be using to distract yourself from your financial difficulties, or to obtain an unobtainable dream. Gambling of any kind tends to pray on the most vulnerable in our society. But even the empty hope from something like gambling provides a reason to keep going--so how empty can it be?
There is the hope that you or a loved one with a disease like cancer survives the ordeal and lives. Even if the cancer is advanced and doctors are not optimistic--having hope is pivotal. You use it to keep going. You use it to stay positive. It's proactive--a healthy hope for an unhealthy circumstance.
We writers feed on hope--the hope that we get published, the hope that we get an agent, the hope that once all that happens, people will buy our books so we can, hopefully, continue writing without feeling guilty (about a myriad of things). This is the kind of hope that fuels confidence, that allows you to get rejection after rejection, and still believe in yourself and your work. I love the film Hamlet 2 as an example of the artist's hope.
Prayer and hope go hand in hand--whether you are religious or not. Prayer can be to God, or just a positive sentiment spoken out to the universe. Prayer reinforces hope by tapping in to the collective unconscious belief revealed by Carl Jung that there is something bigger than us out there; that, in effect, we are not alone, even in our most lonely of circumstances. Psycho-oncology studies over the last thirty or so years have shown tremendously positive results for the power of hope and prayer. Hope through prayer can lend an average of four years to a life cut short by disease. Four years--that's a long time. All because of hope.
The power of hope speaks to the power of the mind. I recently took a kind of gamble, a safe-risk, and overall, it helped get me through a very difficult time. I was vulnerable when I took it; I was desperate. I am no longer either of those things and so decided that taking that risk in and of itself was enough. The results, positive or negative, do not really matter. But the hope did....
Sometimes we abuse hope by using it as a crutch, as a way to avoid our responsibilities. But if hope pushes us to believe in ourselves, to take actions would not normally take, then even false hope can be meaningful.
As I sit here and consider the power of hope, I can recall all the naysayers in my life--of which there have been many--who tried to quash my sense of hope, and by doing so, tried to quash my sense of self in some way. At EVERY turn, there they were. My students might call these hope-quashers "haters." Though the mythical phoenix is one of the most powerful symbols of hope out there, you'll find that oftentimes in society, the status quo resents individuals who rise from the ashes, reborn again from difficulty. Why is that? Because those individuals, the phoenixes among us, represent pure HOPE. The purest hope there is. It's a "why not" moment. The temptation is too great to fear those who, through extraordinary circumstances, have had opportunity to do extraordinary things. That's what has bothered me all these years about that professor. I later learned his misery wanted company, hence his hope-quashing. He himself had had his hopes quashed at one time. He was just paying forward the favor. That was almost twenty years ago. I shudder to think of the twenty years worth of students who may have listened to that embittered professor, a hopeless soul and so a soldier of mediocrity.
Even if that thing you hope for, and so worked toward because of that ever-motivating hope, never fully comes to fruition--the fact that YOU had the will to have such hope speaks volumes above those who don't have any and so, never bother trying. What hope did Moses have of ever seeing the land of milk and honey after forty years in the desert? The chances were slim to none that he'd survive. But yet, he still had hope. Jesus had hope that his words and ideas would change the world--even in the midst of derision, even in the face of death. Mohammed had that same hope after hearing a voice tell him to write while meditating in a cave. Buddha also felt that same sense of hope as he came to enlightenment after many trials and temptations. And what about Susan B. Anthony! Fifty years of her life spent hoping her efforts would manifest in positive change. She never even lived to see it. But her hope that her efforts would transcend her death and see necessary change never died.
Hope carries us when we're tired, when we're weak. Hope drives us onward when we're healthy and strong. Help pushes us to take risks that will bring positive change. My HOPE is that no matter who you are or what you are doing, you will never let naysayers or embittered people like my old professor, steal your HOPE from you. That's what Shakespeare meant when he wrote the famous line, "To thine own self be true...." Be true to yourself by maintaining your hopes and dreams without letting anyone interrupt you, without wavering during difficulty. Hold on to it--cling to it. Because you dare to hope, you will always find success...even in the midst of failure.
Until next time, dear readers--all my love and best hopes....
PS: Want to provide hope to others? Buy Peter Arvell's "Hope Help Heal Haiti" T-shirt, available at www.NeimanMarcus.com 100% of the net proceeds go to the long-term recovery efforts of Haiti....