I am supported by Hope every day. Literally.
At the College of Transfiguration we have assigned seats in Chapel. Here’s the view at my seat.
Last semester, my kneeling cushion was embroidered with Faith. This semester I got Hope.
Both are good foundations for prayer. (So are other cushions in the chapel marked Love).
So this semester I’ve been supported by Hope and thinking about hope.
I appreciate the distinction people make between optimism and hope. Here’s something Cornel West said:
Hope and optimism are different. Optimism tends to be based on the notion that there’s enough evidence out there to believe things are gonna be better, . . . whereas hope looks at the evidence and says, “It doesn’t look good at all. Doesn’t look good at all. Gonna go beyond the evidence to create new possibilities based on visions that become contagious to allow people to engage in heroic actions always against the odds, no guarantee whatsoever.” That’s hope. I’m a prisoner of hope, though. Gonna die a prisoner of hope.
Archbishop Desmond Tutu has described the distinction between optimism and hope this way:
Optimism requires clear signs that things are changing—meaningful words and unambiguous actions that point to real progress. I do not yet hear enough meaningful words, nor do I yet see enough unambiguous deeds to justify optimism.
However, that does not mean I am without hope. I am a Christian. I am constrained by my faith to hope against hope, placing my trust in things as yet unseen. Hope persists in the face of evidence to the contrary, undeterred by setbacks and disappointment . . . I insist that the hope in which I persist is not reducible to politics or identified with a people. It has a more encompassing shape. I like to call it “God’s dream.”
And then he goes on to describe God’s dream:
God has a dream for all his children. It is about a day when all people enjoy fundamental security and live free of fear. It is about a day when all people have a hospitable land in which to establish a future. More than anything else, God’s dream is about a day when all people are accorded equal dignity because they are human beings. In God’s beautiful dream, no other reason is required.
God’s dream begins when we begin to know each other differently, as bearers of a common humanity, not as statistics to be counted, problems to be solved, enemies to be vanquished or animals to be caged. God’s dream begins the moment one adversary looks another in the eye and sees himself reflected there.
All things become possible when hearts fixed in mutual contempt begin to grasp a transforming truth; namely, that this person I fear and despise is not an alien, something less than human. This person is very much like me, and enjoys and suffers, loves and fears, wonders, worries, and hopes. Just as I do, this person longs for well-being in a world of peace.
God’s dream begins with this mutual recognition – we are not strangers, we are kin. It culminates in the defeat of oppression perpetrated in the name of security, and of violence inflicted in the name of liberation. God’s dream routs the cynicism and despair that once cleared the path for hate to have its corrosive way with us, and for ravenous violence to devour everything in sight.
A lot is going on in the world that calls for hope rather than optimism.
For instance, in Makhanda this week, the Gift of the Givers—the humanitarian organization that has been digging wells and supplying drinking water here—left town, citing a decision by the government to pay other companies for the work they’ve done rather than give the organization promised reimbursements. The situation is distressing and demoralizing.
Yesterday, as I was pulling out my kneeling cushion and preparing to be supported by Hope, how important hope is. But more, I realized I’ve been thinking of hope primarily as a noun, as a thing that exists. And it is. But perhaps Hope’s message to me is it’s also a verb, a command: Hope. Do this.
As a thing, I can think of hope as out there somewhere. Sometimes closer by, sometimes close enough to touch or hold on to, but sometimes harder to get a grip on. Something I can take or leave.
But as a command, I have to make it personal. Hope. It’s not out there somewhere. It’s holding us up right now. Participating in it, doing it, even in my weak little way, may be as simple as getting on my knees and saying my prayers or listening quietly as God speaks through human words.
“The hope in which I persist is not reducible to politics or identified with a people. It has a more encompassing shape. I like to call it ‘God’s dream.’”
Cornel West’s words can be found at https://www.azquotes.com/quote/1124873
Desmond Tutu’s words were part of his comments about peace in the Middle East and can be found here: https://www.boston.com/news/globe/editorial_opinion/oped/articles/2007/10/26/realizing_gods_dream_for_the_holy_land/?page=full