Thursday, July 2, 2009

Hope Springs Eternal

I think one of the more admirable qualities of our species is our never-ending wellspring of hope. Even in the worst of circumstances humans have the capacity to belief that things will get better. We're always imagining our situations resolved, our circumstances changed for the better, and we pine for those better realities. It's great that, and you'll never hear me say this in any other context, even in the face of facts, even beyond any reasonable assurance of a positive resolution, we can still hold out hope for change.

It's a reaction to a threatening world that could be reduced to a simple survival mechanism. But I prefer not to think of it that way. I imagine more as an offshoot of the same cerebral processes that allow us to perceive beauty. To create art. To see objects as more than just their physical mass. To imbue an essentially meaningless, purposeless universe with both of those properties, based on our own unique brain chemistries. Hope represents the imposition of the concept of "beauty" on life situations, seeing even difficult, painful situations from the best possible perspective and imagining tidy conclusions.

Whether hope is fused with action toward the realization of that imagined better existence is only peripherally important to this discussion. Hope, even apart from action, is a sustaining force for people in the face of adversity, and is responsible for humanity's long march of progress.

But yes. Hope buoyed by action is more potent than either element separately.

As a side note, I'll say that hope is only positive when applied toward positive ends. Just like any human attribute hope can be twisted and used for destructive purposes. One can hope for exceptionally ugly things just as easily as good. And that hope can motivate people toward ill intents just as quickly as positive ones. So the benefits of hope are metered by purpose.

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