by Rebekah Choi
WHAT IS HOPE?
Hope is often mistaken for its distant cousins, Optimism and Naivety. But really, once you get to know them, you notice that Hope has these dark eyes and an unwavering gaze that really couldn’t be mistaken for any other. And unlike its other set of cousins, Joy and Exuberance, Hope is a quiet creature. It can be easy to overlook, especially on days when our other more demanding friends, like Pain and Fear, come calling.
But Hope is everywhere — in the dark and the light, the bad and the good, around each and every corner, behind every wall. It does not often announce its presence, but nudges us to recognize the sound of its quiet hum in the midst of the daily cacophony, the notes of its deep bass line that holds up the everyday song.
Like Mission and Dream and Vision, Hope sings of a reality beyond the world-of-now and whispers of a world-that-could-be. And really, Hope is never far away; we live and dwell with this ever-present friend of ours. We all harbor dreams of worlds-that-could-be as we go about our lives, choosing what to say, think, do, consume, and love in the everyday.
At times when Fear and Doubt cloud the horizon, we may easily find ourselves questioning the relevance of Hope. Why hope when things are always bound to turn sour again? Why hope when we’ve engaged with this flitty, damnably unpredictable creature named Life quite long enough to fairly conclude that Life always, always messes up our perfect plans and takes us down long, winding pathways to nowhere? Why hope when Grief and Anger and Confusion and Helplessness lie so closely by?
Hope is particularly relevant at times such as these. When our relationships, our dreams, and even our worlds reveal its flaws, the characteristics upon which Cynicism lie equip us to look closely at what we once trusted to figure out its faults; those upon which Hope lie equip us to dance towards a rebuilding of the fallen, towards the alternate endings of the unknown.
Why hope? Hope is more than a positive outlook on life; it is a belief in agency. It is an active response to the unavoidable flimsiness of Life, a response in which we recognize and welcome alternate endings and all they might have to offer. We hope because we recognize that Life is an ever-changing thing, and we rejoice in the fact that we, as individuals and institutions, can change along with it, continuously bringing our visions of Goodness and Kindness to the arenas that we occupy.
WHO IS HOPE?
Who, then, is Hope, and where can we find it?
Hope comes in all forms: a plant on a neighbor’s balcony, a newly-elected public official, a kind word from a friend, a welcoming café down the street —
Hope does sometimes swoop down in magnificent, flashy superhero garb, overturning tables and trumpeting victories. More often than not, however, we find that Hope dwells and moves in the small, the local, the niched, the quiet. We are often asked (sometimes too often, it may seem!) to exercise our muscles of patient, unwavering vision to learn to detect the dull glimmer of Hope in the nooks and crannies.
Looming structures, complicated institutions and powerful individuals can intimidate us into giving up on searching for Hope every day. But lean into the unknown — the yet-to-be futures of individuals and institutions that quietly go about their good work in each of their little corners of the world. Perhaps it is not a matter of locating Hope, but of learning to recognize it.