“The hope of future generations is the chance we have to awaken in ourselves a consciousness that is increasingly immune to irrationality and that values wisdom.” ~ Harry Palmer
Bad news travels fast. At the speed of light it departs from the behemoth that is the worldwide web and whizzes along innumerable fiber optic cables, then streams through your router and onto your screen! In the modern, hyper-connected age it’s impossible to stay away from news. Every new headline seems to scream of murder and mayhem. I limit myself to exposure just once a day, unless it’s something earth shattering. I loathe getting constantly bombarded with how ‘bad’ the world is.
Whilst it’s important to stay informed I do think there’s a danger of news overload. You could be forgiven for thinking that we live in a hell on Earth, and those kind of beliefs create a climate of fear. You see desperate faces devoid of hope on your TV every night. You might rightly think, ‘WTF is the world coming to?’ It’s easy to get depressed in the face of such relentless s**t.
And you have to remind yourself that out of the billions of people inhabiting planet Earth, only a small percentage are making trouble. But those are the only ones we hear about. Most of us live in relative peace (unless you are unfortunate enough to be in one of the war zones or trouble hot spots in the world). Wars have been raging somewhere in the world for about ninety percent of humanity’s existence.
In times of war hope is a precious commodity indeed. Winston Churchill, who himself battled bouts of depression, (his “black dogs”); kept our nation’s hope alive with his brilliant speeches that rallied people together against an evil doctrine that threatened our freedom. Even in the face of devastating losses. But the important thing is, it wasn’t empty rhetoric, it was a combination of well thought out strategy and inspiring oratory.
To have no hope is to have no motivation, no reason to live. To feel that dreadful emptiness in your gut invites in apathy and her cohorts: fear, helplessness and depression. When hope dies, your future dies.
I read this article about the recent murder of Russian politician Boris Nemtsov, which kind of implies they should all give up and accept murder and corruption as a way of life. Yes, it’s a big blow for democracy in Russia, but the people must use it as a springboard for continued change. Poor Boris probably hoped that he wouldn’t have to become a martyr to bring his lofty cause to fruition, but the power of a martyr should never be underestimated..
I’ve tried to understand, what exactly is hope? For me, the anatomy of hope is acceptance and gratitude for the present moment (what is), but at the same time having aspirations for what you want in your future. It’s interwoven with the creative process. Pursuits of any kind are not possible without hope for an improved tomorrow. It is the starting point for all endeavour. It is the root of goal-setting and encompasses desire, courage, compassion and love. Without it there would be no evolution, no growth.
Hope is one of the few four letter words that really packs a positive punch. Hope is as essential to the human spirit as air is to the survival of the physical body. Quite simply, it ranks up there with oxygen.
When hope leaves, your cells literally shut down. I’ve been there, at the bottom of the pit, feeling that there was nothing left for me in life. I very nearly gave up. It’s a place I wouldn’t wish on anyone. But when you hit rock bottom there is only one direction you can travel, or you perish down there.
The film The Shawshank Redemption, based on Stephen King’s novella has a wonderful scene between Andy and Red that perfectly epitomises the essence of hope:
Of course, I don’t want to get mixed up with false-hope, which is pie-in-the-sky thinking. I’m talking about the kind that will make you stretch and grow, yet is achievable. You need enough to excite your imagination; satisfy your reasoning mind that it’s doable and to ignite your furnace of ambition.
“All people dream, but not equally. Those who dream by night in the dusty recesses of their mind, wake in the morning to find that it was vanity. But the dreamers of the day are dangerous people, For they dream their dreams with open eyes, And make them come true.” ~ D.H. Lawrence
Last year I had a bout of rejection when I was submitting The Virtuoso to literary agents, and after a while it got me down. Then I became afraid to open the emails, because I knew what they would say. I could feel my confidence ebbing away, and my enthusiasm for my work dwindling. I decided after a few months of polite ‘thanks but no thanks’ comments that I would represent myself, for better or worse.
Hope is also a theme I wove into The Virtuoso. My protagonist, the violinist Isabelle Bryant, draws her hope from the example of her musical hero Beethoven, who once contemplated suicide in his darkest hour. The only reason we know that he did was the discovery of the “Heiligenstadt Testament” after his death in 1827.
I thought that if I put Isabelle in his shoes she might well feel the same despair. Imagine how you would feel if the only thing that you are good at, in fact brilliant at, is about to be ripped from your life, compounding the emotional havoc already in your heart, wreaked by romantic heartbreak and growing isolation. It’s the kind of suffering you can only recover from with a hefty dose of hope and determination.
I think that the depth to which we sink is a measure of the height we can ascend to. Luckily for us Beethoven persevered, and because of his courage we can enjoy his musical legacy, some of the greatest music in history, including the immortal ninth symphony:
There is always light at the end of the tunnel if we can but focus on it and have the faith to follow it. Napoleon Hill said, ‘The starting point of all achievement is desire.’ That desire is the flame of hope, the spark which provides your motivation for action, which in turn produces your results. I don’t advocate dwelling on the past, but sometimes it can be useful to see how far you have come.
And when you achieve a desired outcome you naturally find another dream to pull you towards your full potential. Hope is an immensely personal thing, but it can also be incredibly powerful when a group of people apply the same hope to humanity.
Here is a heart-warming compilation of normal folks responding to the question: what is hope?
If you find yourself in a similar mental state to the one I was in a number of years ago, I sincerely hope that this post has helped to give you the belief that you can make it through. When you get to the end of your rope, tie a big knot and hold on!
Hold On Pain Ends
My hope is that one day, humans will be able to co-exist in mutual respect of our diverse cultural, geographical and religious differences. No matter who you are, where you’re from, or what your background is you have basic human needs, and Maslow’s hierarchy of needs applies to pretty much everyone alive.
My favourite rock band, Queen, also have One Vision:
I had a dream when I was young,
A dream of sweet illusion,
A glimpse of hope and unity,
And visions of one sweet union.