hope here and now

I'm back from Thanksgiving travels, and missing my blogging friends who have been away from the keyboard, as well. I wanted to put in a plug for Beyond, the magazine about becoming truly human. Karen Neudorf (of the One House blog) is the editor, and it is an ads-free publication. After being inundated by the consumer-driven content of the periodicals on the average newsstand, Beyond is just plain smart. And refreshing. Issue 14, titled Possible Worlds, has an excerpt from a book called The Impossible Will Take a Little While by Paul Rogat Loeb. He (and Beyond) quote Vaclav Havel, who is one of my heros. Havel was a playright who was a dissident leader under the Soviet Regime, and is now the president of the Czech Republic.

An Orientation of the Heart, Vaclav Havel
The kind of hope I often think about (especially in situations that are particularly hopeless, such as prison) I understand above all as a state of mind, not a state of the world. Either we have hope within us or we don't; it is a dimension of the soul; it's not essentially dependent on some particular observation of the world or estimate of the situation. Hope is not prognostication. It is an orientation of the heart; it transcends the world that is immediately experienced, and is anchored somewhere beyond its horizons.

Hope in this deep and powerful sense, is not the same as joy that things are going well, or willingness to invest in enterprises that are obviously headed for early success, but, rather an ability to work for something because it is good, not just because it stands a chance to succeed. The more unpropitious the situation in which we domonstrate hope, the deeper that hope is. Hope is definitely not the same thing as optimism. It is not the conviction that something will turn out well, but the certainty that something makes sense, regardless of how it turns out. In short, I think that the deepest and most important form of hope, the only one that can keep us above water and urge us to good works, and the only true source of the breathtaking dimension of the human spirit and its efforts, is something we get, as it were, from "elsewhere." It is also this hope, above all, which gives us the strength to live and continually to try new things, even in conditions that seem as hopeless as ours do, here and now.