On hope

“There is no love of life without despair of life.” – Albert Camus

Illustration from "Cry, Heart, But Never Break" by Glenn Ringtved
Illustration from “Cry, Heart, But Never Break” by Glenn Ringtved

In a span of 48 hours, my heart has been broken in what feels like a million pieces. My beloved country has found a legitimate way to bury in the Heroes Cemetery the worst dictator in our history (or found a way to uphold the law, depending on who you’re talking to). And in the other part of the world, a man who has legitimized hate now holds power.

Albert Camus, in his Lyrical and Critical Essays, rallied towards cultivating our highest virtues, our deepest decencies, and our most ennobled nature, certainly a call worth echoing in today’s world.

But what if one has lost hope? Can we still call on our noblest of selves to rise above the despair?

On Hope in the Dark, Rebecca Solnit discusses hope and what it entails in the twenty-first century. Armed with her usual poetic ways, Solnit encapsulates the kind of hope I yearn for in these trying times, but equally important, also clarifies what hope is not. In shaping the uneven terrain of hope, her words provide a semblance of calm after introspection. Onwards we go.

“Hope locates itself in the premises that we don’t know what will happen and that in the spaciousness of uncertainty is room to act. When you recognize uncertainty, you recognize that you may be able to influence the outcomes — you alone or you in concert with a few dozen or several million others. Hope is an embrace of the unknown and the unknowable, an alternative to the certainty of both optimists and pessimists. Optimists think it will all be fine without our involvement; pessimists take the opposite position; both excuse themselves from acting. It’s the belief that what we do matters even though how and when it may matter, who and what it may impact, are not things we can know beforehand. We may not, in fact, know them afterward either, but they matter all the same, and history is full of people whose influence was most powerful after they were gone.

It’s important to say what hope is not: it is not the belief that everything was, is, or will be fine. The evidence is all around us of tremendous suffering and tremendous destruction. The hope I’m interested in is about broad perspectives with specific possibilities, ones that invite or demand that we act. It’s also not a sunny everything-is-getting-better narrative, though it may be a counter to the everything-is-getting-worse narrative. You could call it an account of complexities and uncertainties, with openings.”