In a reflective mood, I looked this morning at Goggle Images under Hope. This photograph, of the many I looked at (which, unusually, were fairly mediocre), seemed to best illustrate what I think hope is. The fact that there were so few to choose from shows that hope is rather a tricky thing to illustrate on canvas or photographic film.
We all know of course that 'Hope springs eternal in the human breast' because Pope said so but I guess most of us are generally unaware what a major part hope plays in our lives. After all, we have hope for ourselves, hope for those we love, hope for our country, hope for peace, etc. Some folk even hope there is an afterlife despite the fact that there is no evidence to support it. That is hope indeed (or is it wishful thinking?)!
What is hope? According to my dictionary hope is: a feeling of desire for something and confidence in the possibility of its fulfillment. We all buy lottery tickets and hope to win first prize even though we know the chances are incredibly remote. We all hope to meet someone who fulfils all our dreams and live happily-ever-after despite the fact that divorce is common. We hope our children and grandchildren do well in life yet we're well aware that tragedy can strike at any time. We hope we live to a ripe old age in good health then die in our sleep though it happens to few... It is a muchly used word in our language yet, strangely, it usually evades definition and scrutiny.
Is it a human instinct like that of self-preservation or procreation? Given its prevalence, if I had to guess, I'd probably say it was. The Palestinians provide a graphic example of that. Despite forty years of brutal occupation, starvation, house demolitions, the continuing theft of their land and the imprisoning and killing of their citizens, the constant presence of fear-inducing tanks, soldiers, snipers and over-flying Apache helicopters and missiles, they still continue to have hope for freedom (despite strong evidence which suggests they will never get it). Their hope, individually and collectively, must be very strong!
People that contract terminal diseases keep hoping they will live until near the end. The power of positive thinking has even led to some remarkable outcomes and remissions. People who have suffered a relationship breakdown, despite the trauma and periods of depression, keep hoping that another relationship will form and, of course, eventually it does. Older people, those with vision, can see clearly what life is and, more importantly, what it isn't, yet they keep going even when the debilitating problems associated with aging show.
Our current world is seriously conflicted and divided and the threat of nuclear war hangs over our heads. Yet still we all hope it won't eventuate and that one day peace will reign.
Hope keeps us going. It is a bright light in our darkness.
When hope dies, so do we.