2016.07.03 hope is not a joke

“I find many men in our dangerous age who seem to be in love with misery and death, and who grow angry when hopes are suggested to them. They think hope is irrational and that, in sitting down to lazy despair, they are merely facing facts. I cannot agree with these men. To preserve hope in our world makes calls upon our intelligence and our energy. In those who despair it is frequently the energy that is lacking.”

Bertrand Russell, Autobiography (1967), Postscript, p.710


I came across this quote from philosopher Bertrand Russell a couple of days ago, and it struck me as being very appropriate for the time. There is no single particular reason for it seeming appropriate, not really any one particular thing, a single particular event or situation. It’s a general thing, and it is something important to think about these days.

The very idea of hope seems to have joined any number of things that have become a little warped and distorted these days, just one part of a broad warpage and distortion. It is, also, something that has an unfortunate element to it in the sense of becoming yet another item sucked into the reality distortion zone of politics these days.

Hope is not some sort of joke. It’s not something for a target for jaundiced snark.

It’s not some sort of vague wishful thinking of naïve fools, and it’s also not about pasting on a fake smile and vaguely spouting some variation on the phrase “it’s all good!”.

Hope is a word that is one of many words that seem to have become difficult and awkward to talk about, as many words have become a bit distorted and mangled. This applies to words like optimism and pessimism, or positive and negative, and I’ve written before about how the word cynic, or cynicism, have been warped and mutated. Many people seem to have lost the fact that it comes from the Greek Cynics, who were people who questioned things, in a quest to get at the truth of things. It does not mean a person who has become jaundiced and bitter squalling at everybody that everything is false and rotten and doomed.

Many people seem to have lost perspective so badly that many other people around today who make a devoted effort to get at the truth of things, undrstand it, and communicate that to other people, sometimes get simplistic and stupid labels like “doomer” directed toward them, instead of appreciation and understanding that they then turn into a resolve to improve matters.

There, I think, is where we get to hope.

Hope comes from the realization that things can get better, something can be improved, something can be fixed, or, if not, something else can be worked out. Hope can come from many things.

There might be a long essay in what hope is not.

But just to reiterate the point, there are places you do not find hope, like people who think that if you just paste on a plastic smile and say everything is just wonderful, then everything will be just wonderful, and not in people who stick themselves in a different simplistic mindset that says everything is wrong and bad and rotten and dishonest, both of these sorts not only disassociating themselves badly from reality, but, in the process, trying to relieve themselves of any sense of obligation to care about anything.


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