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Trouble With Hope /
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The Trouble With Hope
I had a strained relationship with hope
before my wife was diagnosed with cancer. To me, hope
was a high waiting for a low, a fix with a nasty
flipside. Far from the precious entity exalted by
legions of poets and philosophers, hope was just another
coordinate on the pain/pleasure cycle existing in
infinite balance with its opposite. In the same way that
happiness alternates with sadness, or desire with loss,
hope alternates with fear. One requires that the other
exist. Hope was for suckers, and I was no sucker.
Or so I reasoned. The times I didnít
need hope, that is. But when life would clobber me over
the head with misfortune, there I was, clinging to hope
like a dear, misunderstood friend.
Since my wifeís diagnosis, however, my
relationship with hope is no longer strained. Itís been
severed completely. Iíve abandoned hope and in the
process, have met a new friendópeace.
To abandon hope is to trample the
plotline of feel-good movies, to renounce the rhetoric
of sweating preachers, and to earn puzzled looks from
hopers everywhere. Hope soothes and inspires. It builds
churches and sells books. Hope is widely thought to be
the last coin in our pocket, the one thing we can never
afford to lose.
But what is hope, exactly? What does it
look like away from the flickering glow of votive
Isnít hope just wishful thinking? Isnít
it just slapping a happy ending on an unhappy beginning?
We want to be happy all the time, and
why not? It beats sad, lonely, and a host of other
unpleasant but inevitable human conditions. When weíre
not happy, we hope. We paint a bright future with our
thoughts and wait for it to materialize. However
rickety, this logic makes just enough sense to ease a