Sociology

Hope the Great Illusion of Man



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My favourite four letter word.



It is a word that is always in our minds. It is a word that can make you cry, smile, and sometimes even make you change your life forever. We live with this word from childhood to adulthood, from job to job, and from relationship to relationship. We take it for granted more than use it to our advantage and sometimes it can make us feel absolutely worthless. It is hope, and we all have it whether we know what to make of it or not.

Hope is defined as a belief in a positive outcome related to events and circumstances in one's life. Breaking it down to the word belief, I think we have a lot of trouble with that word these days. More people than ever before are claiming to be agnostic acknowledging that they do not believe anyone can ever know for certain if there is a higher power. We tend to associate the word belief with a clear-cut yes or no when it comes to present-day issues of religion and/or politics. However, we have forgotten the most important belief of all, the belief in ourselves.

The Greeks felt that hope was needed to be able to survive all of the trials and tribulations of life. It is said that when Pandora opened the box of evils she let out every evil known to man, war, hate, death, plague, all except for one, hope. She quickly slammed down the lid of the box and did not let it out. Then mankind fell into despair until Hope was finally released into the world. Nichetze said that he felt hope " is the most evil of evils because it prolongs man`s torment". Personally, I am with the Greeks and believe without struggle and despair how are we ever to know when the good moments in our lives occur.

When we are younger we all dream that a great life awaits us in years to come. We cannot wait for time to pass and make us older, wiser, capable contributing members of society. We are planning for our future careers and have a picture of how life will most likely transpire for us, with a house, a car, a good job, a solid happy marriage and beautiful intelligent children. Deep down I think we are hoping for guidance, someone to tell us what to do and show us the best way to get the things we want in life. Then, inevitably, we do get older and realize that we are actually no wiser and no more capable of anything than we were a decade ago. We are still imagining that a great career is waiting for us, that an amazing relationship is on the horizon and that we will still do all those things we promised ourselves we would do. What does all of this mean? I think we are still hoping for someone to guide us through life and for some reason I don't think we will ever lose that.

The truth is all of those things we want in life are all based on hope. The hope that we will have a fulfilling career, the hope that we will find the person of our dreams, and even marriage is based on the hope that it will last forever.

There is also the hope that heals (or is said to). In my research I have found countless doctors and patients who truly believe this invisible feeling can cure anything that ails you. Dr. Jerome Groopman, an oncologist and hermologist who specializes in cancer, HIV, Hepatitis C, and blood related diseases, has just released a book on the subject called The Anatomy of Hope' with his theories on how hope can heal and actually have a medical effect. A quote from the book states, "Belief and expectation-the key elements of hope-can block pain by releasing the brain's endorphins and enkephalins, mimicking the effects of morphine. In some cases, hope can also have important effects on fundamental physiological processes like respiration, circulation, and motor function. During the course of an illness, then, hope can be imagined as a domino effect, a chain reaction in which each link makes improvement more likely. It changes us profoundly in spirit and in body." That is a very strong claim to make when no amount of research can ever really provide substantial proof. But, maybe it doesn't need to. All these doctors and patients are really trying to say is do not give up because life is worth living. I am not saying I am for or against Euthanasia but I do believe the most powerful of all human traits is the will to live, the will to survive.

How many movies have you seen where the main character is in a situation that is so dire, so destitute, that you yourself would consider giving up, but they do not and they survive to accomplish great things or lead great lives. These are movies, yes, but I have discovered countless real-life scenarios of this as well, infertile woman finally conceiving, premature babies miraculously surviving, patients beating cancer when doctors say it is too late, overcoming drug addiction against all odds and people who were once thought to be past saving recovering on their own terms, just to name a few.

Hope is not a thing that can be defined or explained, just felt. Even wars can be attributed to this strange inner logic. The fighting of nations, the killing of others, more relevant today than it has been in years, comes down to the hope that we can make things better. Not just us English speaking people but everyone! You don't think the Palestinians, or Iraqis, or Iranians aren't thinking of the future? They are. They are concerned for their children and their children's children and want to preserve their culture and make things better, just like we do. It is said in America that more and more parents are losing hope for their children's future. That things will not be better for them in this media saturated, materialistic age of over-expansion. Maybe that is because we are letting ourselves be beat by the ultimate enemy, complacency. If you want to make a difference and want your children to live in a better world and have more opportunities it starts with you.

Lord Byron is quoted to have said, "But what is Hope? Nothing but the paint on the face of Existence; the least touch of truth rubs it off, and then we see what a hollow-cheeked harlot we have got hold of." Does truth destroy hope? I feel only if you let it. Does it help to look at your life and difficult situations with Hope colored glasses? And if so does that prove that we are fooling ourselves? I am reminded of what the Greeks thought about hope, that it was one of the evils in the box of Pandora. It can be twisted, manipulating, cold, and so distant you don't even remember what it feels like. But it can also make you look to the future with confidence and the determination that your time is not over and there are still things to be done. Hope like any other four-letter word has many connotations but in the end it's how you use it that makes the difference.

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More about this author: Candace A. Clark

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