Four Reasons for Hope
A few mornings ago, I awoke with a few linked and disparate thoughts about hope and despair, which I’ll attempt to share.
Recently I’ve been reading the Book of Hope by Jane Goodall and Douglas Abrams (with Gail Hudson) – subtitled, A Survival Guide for Trying Times. Published in 2021, the book is gleamed from dialogue between the co-authors in the two years prior to the current global pandemic.
The story begins at Jane’s home in Dar es Salaam, where Douglas had just arrived. He writes in this opening section, What is Hope, that “I had to admit I was suspicious of hope… I was afraid of false hope, that grim imposter. Even cynicism felt safer in some ways than taking the risk of hope.”
He tells Jane the joke about the difference between an optimist and a pessimist. The optimist thinks this might be the best of all possible worlds, and the pessimist fears the optimist is right.
Jane laughs. “We do not really know how it will turn out, do we? And we can’t just think we can do nothing, and everything will work out for the best.”
Douglas recalls how Archbishop Desmond Tutu had once told him that optimism can sometimes quickly turn to pessimism. Hope, Tutu said, is a much deeper source – practically unshakable. When a journalist once asked Tutu why he was optimistic he replied that he wasn’t – rather, “I am a prisoner of hope” he said, quoting the biblical prophet Zechariah. Tutu said hope is being able to see that there is light despite all the darkness.
As the book unfolds Jane focuses on “Four Reasons for Hope”:
1. The Amazing Human Intellect,
2. The Resilience of Nature,
3. The Power of Young People,
4. The Indomitable Human Spirit.
The book concludes with “Becoming a Messenger of Hope.” This, I’m working on.
Jane mentions one of her heroes as Albert Schweitzer – a musician, humanitarian, physician, and a theologian. Indeed, a Lutheran Minister. In his own way, Schweitzer speaks of hope:
No ray of sunlight is ever lost,
but the green it wakes needs time to sprout
and it’s not always granted the sower to live to see the harvest.
All work that is worth doing is done in faith.
To be fully human, we need hope. Jane Goodall gives four good reasons. And yet, in our being human there are moments when despair overwhelms us. What about those times?
Wendell Berry states the antidote – one we do well to turn to during these trying times – no matter what, or when. It’s written all around us.
The Peace of Wild Things
When despair for the world grows in me
and I wake in the night at the least sound
in fear of what my life and my children’s lives may be,
I go and lie down where the wood drake
rests in his beauty on the water, and the great heron feeds.
I come into the peace of wild things
who do not tax their lives with forethought
of grief. I come into the presence of still water.
And I feel above me the day-blind stars
waiting for their light. For a time
I rest in the grace of the world, and am free.
In faith, love (and hope)
~ Bruce ~