Friday, May 10, 2024 #50

Hope, the mysterious, ephemeral, compelling, and paradoxically insatiable human appetite and nourishment, begs additional reflection. Whether the ‘star’ that motivates, sustains, enriches, and lies at the heart of one’s optimism, or the excessive ‘power’ that seems to compel strenuous effort, exertion, commitment, responsibility and exhaustion, hope is a word, a concept, an image and a voice that lives in each of our psychic ‘cast of characters’ as it were.

Desmond Tutu’s insight: Hope is being able to see that there is light despite all of the darkness.

Friedrich Nietzsche: Hope in reality is the worst of all evils because it prolongs the torments of man.

Fyodor Dostoevsky: To live without hope is to cease to live.

Jackson Brown Jr.: Never deprive someone of hope; it might be all they have.

Emily Dickinson: Hope is the thing with feathers that perches in the soul- and sings the tunes without the words-and never stops at all.

Aristotle: Hope is a waking dream.

Benjamin Franklin: He that lives upon hope will die fasting.

Vaclav Havel: Hope is not the conviction that something will turn out well but the certainty that something makes sense regardless of how it turns out.

Dalai Lama; I find hope in the darkest days, and focus in the brightest. I do not judge the universe.

David Ben-Gurion: Anyone who doesn’t believe in miracles is not a realist.

Charlotte Bronte: The human heart has hidden treasures, In secret kept, in silence sealed; The thoughts, the hopes, the dreams, the pleasures, Whose charms were broken if revealed.

Tertullian: Hope is patience with the lamp lit.

Elie Wiesel: Hope is like peace. It is not a gift from God. It is a gift only we can give each other.

Charles M. Shultz: A whole stack of memories never equate one little hope.

Robet Frost: I always entertain great hopes.

Pliny the Elder: Hope is the pillar that holds up the world. Hope is the dream of the waking man.

Francis Bacon: Hope is good breakfast, but it is a bad supper.

Bertrand Russell: Extreme hopes are born from extreme misery.

Thomas Hardy: The sudden disappointment of a hope leaves a scar which the ultimate fulfillment of that hope never entirely removes.

William Makepeace Thackeray: It is only hope which is real, and reality is a bitterness and a deceit.

Ivan Illich: We must rediscover the distinction between hope and expectation.

T.S. Eliot: I said to my soul, be still, and wait without hope, For hope would be hope for the wrong thing.

John F. Kennedy: Israel was not created in order to disappear-Israel will endure and flourish. It is the child of hope and the home of the brave. It can never be broken by adversity nor demoralized by success. It carries the shield of democracy and it honors the sword of freedom.

Greta Thunburg: Once we start to act, hope is everywhere. So instead of looking for hope, look for action. Then and only then, hope will come.

Robert Fulghum: I believe that imagination is stronger than knowledge. That myth is more potent than history. That dreams are more powerful than facts. That hope always triumphs over experience. That laughter is the only cure for grief. And I believe that love is stronger than death.

Nelson Mandela: Our human compassion binds us the one to the other—not in pity or patronizingly, but as human beings who have learnt how to turn our common suffering into hope for the future.

Dietrich Bonhoeffer: The essence of optimism is that it takes no account of the present, but it is a source of inspiration, of vitality and hope where others have resigned; it enables a man to hold his head high, to claim the future for himself and not to abandon it to his enemy.

Oscar Wilde: This suspense is terrible. I hope it will last.

Wendell Berry: The care of the Earth is our most ancient and most worthy, and after all our most pleasing responsibility. To cherish what remains of it and to foster its renewal is our only hope.


The world is replete with perceptions, attitudes, beliefs and pronouncements about hope. It is obviously one of our most ‘treasured’ notions and, like a multi-faceted diamond, offers different hues and images to different men and women, all of whom have, doubtless, endured its loss, fracture, and ashes, and its sustaining energy.

Like all of the ephemerals, and the mysteries, the abstractions and the verities, hope overlays every single moment and experience of our lives. Whether it is tissue-thin or cumulus-clear, the ‘seed’ of hope sings its song, whenever we are listening. And, from the perspective of many, we are listening intently for its melody and rhythm when we are ‘in extremis’. Like a self-refilling candy-jar, for parents with their kids, hope is dispensed almost unconsciously, in the conviction that hope will lift the child’s spirit and help her/him past his ‘pain’. Religion has adopted its magnetism and its metaphor(s) as integral to the life of the disciple, irrespective of the faith, dogma and instruction.

From, we read:

The myth of Pandora’s Box originated in ancient Greece, and it was first recorded by the poet Hesiod in his poem Works and Days. According to the myth, Pandora was created by the god as a form of retribution for the actions of Prometheus, who had stolen fire from the gods and given it to humanity. In an attempt to balance this act, Zeus, the king of the gods, ordered Hephaestus to create a beautiful woman named Pandora with the intent of giving her to Prometheus’ brother Epimetheus as a gift. The story goes on to state that Pandora was entrusted with a ‘box’, known as a ‘pithos’ In Greek. The gods informed her that the box contained special gifts from them but warned her to never open it under any circumstances. Hermes then took her to Epimetheus, the brother of Prometheus, to become his wife. Prometheus had cautioned Epimetheus not to accept any gifts from the gods, but when he saw Pandora’s beauty, he immediately accepted the proposal. However, Pandora was overcome by her curiosity and could not resist the temptation to see what was inside. She opened the box, and the evils of the world were released, including pain, disease is different. Hope I , war, famine, jealousy and greed. They flew out of the jar like winged creatures and spread throughout the world, bringing about chaos and destruction. In some versions of the myth, hope was also inside the box and was the only thing that remained inside the jay after Pandora opened it.

Irrespective of the specific interpretation of the myth, the linkage, dependency(?), immersion(?), inseparability (?) of hope and pain with the other ‘evils’ from the story, has come down through history and tradition, including theology and psychology. For some, it is an antidote to pain; for others, it is a distraction from the reality of pain; for others, the hope of reformation, resurrection, new life, and new birth, including the apocalyptic ‘end times’ comes embedded in the word; for others, it is a caution against a ‘rose-coloured’ perspective on reality. For many, it can be all of those interpretations and more, depending on the circumstance, the various perceptions of the moment, and the urgency of the psychic and/or the spiritual need. The inescapable link between hope and pain, however, is palpable in each and every hospital room, operating room, emergency department, accident scene, fire, draught, tornado and ambulance van.

From a theological (Christian) perspective, writing on Miroslav Volf,* in the summer of 2020, writes:

(Thus) a key feature of hope is that it stretches a person into the unknown, the hidden, the darkness of unknown possibility….In his justly famous book, Theology of Hope, (1964), Jurgen Moltmann, one of the greatest theologians of the second part of the 20th century, made another important distinction, that between hope and optimism. The source of the distinction relates to the specific way some ancient biblical writers understand hope. Optimism, if it is justified, is based on extrapolations we make about the future based upon what we can reasonably discern to be tendencies in the present. Meteorologists observe weather patterns around the globe and release their forecasts for the next day: the day will be unseasonably warm, but in the early afternoon, winds will pick up and bring some relief:….Hope, argued Moltmann, is different. Hope is not based on accurate extrapolation about the future from the character of the present: the hoped-for future is not born out of the present. The future good that is the object of hope is a new thing, novum, that comes in part from the outside situation. Correspondingly, hope is, in Emily Dickinson’s felicitous phrase, like a bird that flies in from outside and ‘perches in the soul.’ Optimism, in dire situations reveals an inability to understand what is going on or an unwillingness to accept it and is therefore an indication of foolishness or weakness. In contrast, hope during dires situations, hope notwithstanding the circumstances, is a sign of courage and strength. What is the use of hope not based no evidence or reason, you may wonder? Think of the alternative. What happens when we identify hope with reasonable expectation? Facing the shocking collapse of what we had expected with good reasons we will slump into hopelessness at the time when we need hope the most! Hope helps us identify signs of hope as signs of hope rather than just anomalies in an otherwise irreparable situation, as indicators of a new dawn rather than the last flickers of a dying light. Hope also helps us to press on with determination and courage. When every courage of action by which we could reach the desired future seems destined to failure, when we cannot reasonably draw a line that would connect the terror of the present with future joy, hope remains indomitable and indestructible. When we hope, we always hope against reasonable expectations. That’s why Emily Dickinsons’ bird of hope ‘never stops’ singing—in the sore storm, in the chilliest land, on the strangest sea……Writing as a 92-year-old, (Moltmann) begins the second paragraph of (this) essay on patience autobiographically: In my youth, I learned to know ‘the God of hope’ and loved the beginnings of a new life with new ideas. But in my old age I am learning to know ‘the God of patience’ and stay in my place in life…..Without endurance, hope turns superficial and evaporates when it meets first resistances. In hope we start something new, but only endurance helps us persevere. Only tenacious endurance makes hope sustainable. We learn endurance only with the help of hope. On the other hand, when hope gets lost, endurance turns into passivity.  Hope turns endurance into active passivity. In hope we affirm the pain that comes with endurance, and learn to tolerate it.

Centuries earlier, Augustine doctrine of Original Sin, set concrete foundational footings from a very different theological perspective from Moltmann’s, And to some extent Christians remain on the pilgrimage of a very thin path between Augustine’s doctrine and Moltmann’s life-enriching perspective.

(Augustine) produced an entirely novel exegesis of the second and third chapters of Genesis, which claimed that the sin of Adam had condemned all his descendants to eternal damnation. Despite the salvation wrought by Christ, humanity was still weakened by what Augustine called ‘concupiscence,’ the irrational desire to take pleasure in beings instead of God. It was experienced most acutely in the sexual act, which our reasoning powers are swamped by passion, God is forgotten, and creatures revel shamelessly in one another. The spectre of reason dragged down by the chaos of lawless sensation reflected the tragedy of Rome, source of order, law and civilization, brought low by the barbarian tribes. Jewish exegetes had never seen the sin of Adam in this catastrophic light, and the Greek Christians, who were not affected by the barbarian scourge, have never accepted the doctrine of Original Sin. Born in grief and fear, this doctrine has left Western Christians with a difficult legacy that linked sexuality indissolubly with sin and helped to alienate men and women from their humanity. (Karen Armstrong, The Case for God, p. 122)

Mandela and Gandhi would seem to embody much of the ‘endurance’ of Moltmann’s hope in both their activism and their patience. 

*Miroslav Volf is Henry B. Wright Professor of Theology at YDS (Yale Divinity School) and founding director of theYale Center for Faith & Culture. He is author of A Pulblic Faith: How Followers of Christ Should serve the Common Good


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