A question that I am often asked by people in general is “why do you hope so much?” (Or something to that effect.) As a background, I should mention that I’m a rather reserved person when it comes to social interaction. I try to talk only when I have something intelligent, humorous, or worthwhile to say (a conversation takes all types, I prefer to observe). When I do talk, I don’t think it’s fair to say that I’m optimistic. I do believe that I’m fairly realistic – I try not to let my perceptions of things color reality, but to understand that my perceptions are flawed and most likely wrong. With that in mind, I begin with the topic of hope.
I’ll try my best not to advocate either optimism, realism, or pessimism, but I’ll likely slip up a few times. I consider hope and optimism to be two different ideas, though certainly not mutually exclusive. Optimism is a bias. Optimism is how you view a situation: seeing the positive things in the world and being grateful for them. Hope, contrarily, is more the concept of seeing potential. When I see the world and the people in it, I see hope. I see potential for improvement. I know for a fact that we can do better, and that alone is encouraging. That is hope. The fact that I can look at a person and I know that they are experiencing the fullness of life is fascinating, and rather stunning as well. Whether or not one realizes it, people tend to see the world in their own unique ways. We adapt to our environments and, depending on the person, create psychological mechanisms to explain how things work, even if it is entirely subconscious. When I talk with another person about issues like this, I can see that they are asking the same questions I have been asking. They have the same existential questions that everyone else has, and it’s quite enlightening.
Perhaps my view of things is a bit colored. I see only the lighter shades of grey. Perhaps not. Something that I’ve noticed that has never changed, and has certainly always been a part of my conscious character, is that I hope. It might be naive, but I find the alternative unthinkable. If I cannot hope, if I cannot see improvement, happiness, love, struggles, and even pain, I cannot imagine what else there really is. The beauty of human existence is that our goals are to eliminate pain. We desire pleasure to such a great extent, that we take on struggles in order to improve our own lives, and especially the lives of our children. I take heart in the fact that we will never reach a situation where we no longer have to struggle, work, and see pain. We need it.
My last paragraph is likely to be misunderstood or misconstrued, and I understand that. There is so much incredible suffering in the world that I cannot possibly address even a small fraction of it in the terms of this post. However, I still want to address that. I know for a fact that we can solve problems such as hunger, drought, strife, war, and hatred. Humanity has the power to fix these problems, and I cannot imagine that we will go on living much longer without actually addressing them. Our current problem is only with prioritizing – we needn’t do anything more than change our priorities from oneself to ourselves. When we view the big picture with an open mind, I think that the average person understands the need to fix the world’s problems, and at any cost. We must ask ourselves the question, “Is it worth it?” Is it worth it to sacrifice human life for the sake of a few peoples’ bank accounts? Is it worth it to continue on destroying our planet so we can boast of our efficiency? Is it worth it to spend more resources on the few, while the plenty starve? Of course not, and no rational, good person would answer that question with a “no.”
My conclusion is this: hope is necessary. It is logical. It is rational. It is all that can be. Without hope, without the desire to accomplish greater things, get through our struggles, and change the world, what else can we do? It is an unfortunate accident of history that the best way to secure oneself financially is to profit off the poorest, but that is the fact of life in modern capitalism. However, I believe that going forward, the only solution that can possibly work is to improve the lives of the many. I believe it can and must happen, and therein is my hope. I don’t think pain will ever end. I don’t want pain to end. Pain is a source of character growth, and that is the purpose it serves in our modern world. We need to shape our world so that pain can become the positive thing that it has the potential to be.
I have to come back to the idea that this post can be really quite misunderstood, and I hope that it isn’t. I do feel the need to say these things, however, because I mean them in the most positive way possible. When we have hope, we have motivation. We can fix the world.