[written in Nottingham, England, while in graduate school]
I’ve been reflecting this week on hope and how happy I am that I have it. I know it’s a broken world we live in. I know that people live in constant heartache that isn’t guaranteed or even likely to heal. I know that in too many cases, situations will worsen rather than improve. Sources too plentiful and unnecessary to mention make all this quite evident.
Yet, I still manage to maintain hope. I refuse to give up on humanity. Maybe it’s because I’m loyal to the good I know we are capable of. Maybe it’s because I refuse to accept that our flaws are irreversible. It’s not that I’m holding out for a utopia to slowly unravel out of the efforts of humanitarians and philanthropists worldwide. I’m just hopeful that we can make enough little changes to make life more resemble a gift than a damnation for people. I’m hopeful that we have it in us to at least honestly and truly try to take care of one another the best we can.
I’m realizing more and more that this hope is a vital part of who I am and what I strive for, both personally and globally. David, my real-life hero who I had the honor of working with at AIRS, mentioned this to me frequently. He would often comment on how resolute I was (am) on making the world a better place, despite the odds being terribly stacked against me. I appreciated the respect and admiration he expressed when voicing this to me, and I also appreciated that he had made me aware of this part of myself. And now, after my life-changing year with AmeriCorps and during my insatiable quest to serve abroad, I find my hope to be more of a Northern Star than I had originally thought.
So imagine my intrigue when I was reading Spinoza’s Ethics for my Continental Philosophy of Religion module and I encountered his definition of hope, which is “an uncertain pleasure arisen from the idea of a thing past or future, the event of which we still doubt to some extent.” I’m not entirely pleased with this definition because it seems to connote cynicism, which I feel is mutually exclusive with hope. The point, though, is more what I read further down the page: “Confidence is pleasure arisen from the idea of a past or future of which the cause of doubt is overborne. [. . .] Confidence therefore arises from hope.”
Hmmmmmmmmm. Confidence therefore arises from hope?! Well, I would certainly like that to be the case; I clearly have an abundance of hope and am seeking to establish confidence. Now that Spinoza has revealed this possible relationship to me, I will be much more cognizant of how my hope and confidence affect one another. Maybe he’s onto something here . . .