Is Hope Helpful?

Moving beyond hope and despair – an inquiry by Ulla Koenig

I want to raise a provocative question: is having hope helpful?

What is hope but an (educated) guess about the future outcome of a wish, a desire, a need?

If there is a probability that things will develop the way I want them to, I have hope. If this probability diminishes, fear sets in. And if the probability drops below zero, despair takes a hold on us. 

Hope is future-bound, and the future is highly unreliable. It is an ongoing dynamic based on myriad processes. Humility demands that we admit we cannot foresee the outcome of actions with precision. Who, without hubris, could claim that the future is under his or her control?

Is there an alternative to hope and hopelessness? 

If we admit that we can only respond to life in this very moment and that none of us can claim to know what is ultimately right and wrong, what do we base our actions on? 

Two qualities other than hope can make reliable guides in responding to life, its challenges and questions: love and wisdom. Action informed by intentions of love, compassion, friendship and care never has only my/our or your interest at heart, but, due to the inclusive nature of love, that of all sides concerned. Wisdom accompanies love in making healthy choices. It asks us to continuously reflect, learn and cultivate the heart.

Both, love and wisdom, inform in very practical terms how I consume, eat, move, speak, work. Not hope, but love and wisdom urge us to protest and raise our voices against exploitation, abuse and populism. Not because we hope to make a difference this way, but because love and wisdom ask us to challenge structures and dynamics which cause suffering, harm and pain. 

Photo by Kristine Weilert on Unsplash

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