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The Trouble With Hope

By John Ptacek

(Page 1 of 2)

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 candles?

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 frightened mind.


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