In June, I posted a talk on hope; today I read a post about hope in these parlous political times; and I remembered this photo from the morning paper showing Baylor students in a march of solidarity.
But first a word about hope.
It’s not the up-beat assumption that things will turn out alright. Optimism might be the view that in the long run everything will be OK. “Don’t worry! There’s light just around the corner!” Hope isn’t optimism nor is it the opposite of pessimism (the view that in the long run everything is going down the tubes).
Hope is a positive expectancy amid objective uncertainty. If we’re singers, we know that whether we get an unfolding tune to play out as we want it is not guaranteed. Yet the lack of certainty needn’t lead to caution or despair. A “positive expectancy” is the lived trust and confidence that there’s a tune to follow, and we can do it. There’s a hope-trust that you’ll get where you want and where the good tune is leading you, but without certainties. Knowing how to tell our story in tough times, even while knowing that the precise pitch of the next lines is yet unknown, is to manifest hope. Hope keeps us singing.
Why do we need hope in the politics of tough times? Merely having a retort or counter view in times of conflict is not enough. Political retorts — however legitimate — can slip into sophisticated rant, and political rant can tie us in a deadly loop: we hear hateful words and know the obvious rebuttal and jump into a closed-circuit punching-shouting match, subdued or out of control.
To keep our spirit alive-and-well (rather than just mechanically tied into disappointment, despair, and angry rebuttal) we need an open almost naive hopefulness: a propensity for alertness to positive things rather than letting the hateful shut us down in sullen fury, or trigger only angry, sure-fire refutations. It’s hard.
Back to Baylor
I’d be insensitive if I didn’t flinch at things like armed white supremacists marching against Montana Jews. But I’d be less than fully human if I had no space to embrace the Baylor students who lifted up a fellow student who was reviled and pushed from a campus sidewalk for being Black — lifted her up and carried her forward.
The counter march — almost a joyous promenade — showed a warm spontaneous solidarity worth its weight in gold. It was heartening — not just an understandable and expected flash of outrage at white-racists.
In addition to a capacity for indignation and resistance to despair we need capacities for hope — something that can’t be willed into being; it’s not an athletic virtue. But it can be welcomed and amplified as we’re graced with its presence.