Waiting and Working on Hope

I’ve loved history and studying anything from a historical perspective, whether sports, religion, music, etc. for a long time. History and sociology are parallel threads that run through most of the reading that I’ve been doing for the past several years. Aiming to read 25-35 books a year and this year, with a late season push, I’ll probably finish near 30, has had a profound influence on me and on how I view the world, or perhaps better, the United States. This self-directed course of study has also helped me enter a post-ideological phase of life that I’m rather enjoying.

Speaking of reading, one of the lasting gifts that my mother gave me as a child was taking me to our local library in Lisbon Falls, introducing me to the way that a library works, and signing me up for my first reading program. That was probably during the summer of 1971 or 1972. Interesting that my little corner of the world and that special town would be so profoundly affected by the events that were occurring at that moment in time that have brought us to our current place in history.

The subject of today’s post is hope. Living without hope is psychologically damaging, in my opinion. Human beings need hope to thrive and live healthy lives. Robbed of that, we all suffer.

So what’s the solution? Certainly, it’s important to remain grounded in reality and I’m not advocating any sort of psychobabble sleight of hand, either.

We can all choose where to look and how we receive information. For most, their information comes from channels that are narrow, offer talking points designed to keep us fearful and divided, and offer little hope and a message of redemption that requires us to spend and consume gratuitously. That’s the message of the advertisers and the flim flam men We rarely benefit from shopping therapy.

I’m currently in the midst of teaching an 8-week class designed to guide a group of writing students through the steps necessary for writing and ultimately, publishing a book. After my first week of meeting my 12 students, I’m pleasantly surprised at the quality and passion that most of them have about moving their book idea forward. For me, their teacher, I view this opportunity as a chance to refocus my own energies on what I’m most passionate about—books and writing. Whenever I teach, I often feel I come away with more than my students do, although I strive to give as much of myself and share my own experiences as a writer/publisher with them. I’m hopeful about my own book project for the first time in months. I sense that it’s finally rolling forward.

So what does all this mean? What does reading, sociology and history, flim-flam men and writing a book in 8-weeks have to do with hope? I’m not exactly sure other than to say, for the first time in a long time, I feel like I’m right where I’m supposed to be.



3 thoughts on “Waiting and Working on Hope

  1. I like your comment about taking away more from your students. I have always believed a good teacher is one that learns more from their students then they could ever teach them and at the same time feeling fortunate to have been given the gift of “teaching” a group of people.

    Hope is important. And can be the only way we can see through the hard times..

  2. I am constantly reminded of Nietzsche’s statement, borrowed from the Greeks, that “Hope is the worst of evils, for it prolongs the torment of man.”

    I’ve been turning that one over in my head lately. Neither Nietzsche nor the Greeks meant that life is meaningless pain, and therefore not worth enduring. But when I review my military survival training in my head, I notice that “maintain hope” is notably absent. In an example, the trainers cited an airplane that went down in the North Atlantic, with the survivors packed into a sub-freezing lifeboat thrown about on the waves. Despite huddling together and taking all measures to prevent hypothermia, only some of the men survived to be picked up. When interviewed, the survivors said they filled their minds with what they needed to do. Simple things, from needing to mow the lawn to needing to get home to let the dog out. Men with families survived better; there was need to get back to their wives and children.

    There is of course survivor bias in this; we have no idea of what those who died were thinking. Those who survived, though, were hanging onto something–hanging their hopes, as it were–concrete and real, however absurd. The lawn was real, the dog was real, the families were real.

    So as you set into this writer’s workshop with hope, one with something real to craft waiting at the end of it for you and your writers, I find this couplet from Samuel Taylor Coleridge appropriate:

    Work without hope draws nectar in a sieve,
    And hope without an object cannot live.

  3. @LP,

    It sounds as if you and I have been pondering similar concepts; hope merely as an emotional construct might be what Nietzsche had in mind and does little to carry us along. I was thinking about hope in the sense that the Coleridge quote is speaking to, as something focused on an object.

    I think having things to do, projects to complete, people to come back to, see again, all these things are part and parcel of hope in the best sense of the concept.

    Thanks for sharing your comment. It helped enrich my post.


    Another writing class ended. My group was even more energetic and raring to go than the week before.

    Each fall writing class has given me a new and deeper understanding of writing, especially the craft aspects. I’ve always offered a six-week course, which whetted appetites, but always seemed too short as we got to the end of the syllabus. I opted for eight this time, and I already know this is an inadequate time frame to cover everything we need to cover, although my goal is to help my students jump start their book projects and I believe for many, it’s already happened.

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