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I’ve Lost All Hope

August 19, 2013

Blog Elul is a fantastic concept, and a brilliant way to bring modern-day Jews together in a month that can be stressful, both physically and spiritually, for all of us. I knew that I would not be able to be a regular contributor to this effort, but I wanted to at least give my two cents. As I scanned the list of thought-provoking topics, one word jumped out at me – “hope.” When I saw that word, the first thing that came to my mind is the line:
Hope is a dangerous thing.
I don’t remember where I first heard that statement, and I’m fairly sure that it was intended as a warning, but this idea has stuck with me for a long time.
Hope is a dangerous thing.
I agree.
Hope is an intangible, somewhat undefinable, esoteric concept. It’s a word that we all use, and yet likely means something different to each of us. We are told not to lose hope, but not to get our hopes up, and that all we can do is hope. Hope is not a feeling, nor is it an action. Hope is just a thought, and most times, a fleeting one.

I know that sometimes it seems like hope is all that we have. When people are in desperate situations, with loved ones who are ill, or scraping their last dollars together to buy the basic necessities of life, I know that it can feel as though hope is the only thing that keeps the light shining on… but hope is inactive. Hope is just an idea, a passing thought sometimes. Hope can, and often does, breed despair, when the thing that we are hoping for doesn’t come to be. When we hope for something, it means that there is still a piece of lingering doubt inside of us. It’s kind of like we KNOW things probably won’t work out the way that we want, but we can still cling to some iota of hope. To me, that sounds like a whole lot of negativity, with a tiny slice of “but maybe.”

On the other hand, belief is a powerful state of mind. When we believe that something is going to be, it can propel us into action to make sure that we get what we want. When we believe something in the very depths of our souls, it is very rare that we are wrong. We are intuitive creatures, and what goes on in our gut, those intense feelings of knowing, are feelings that we all can, and should, learn to trust. When people say to “expect the worst and hope for the best,” they might as well just say “prepare for the worst.” When we put ourselves in positions where we are ready, and waiting for the worst to happen, we pretty much say to the world around us “I want the worst to happen!!” Hoping for the best, getting our hopes up, while preparing for the worst most often just means that we’re going to be let down. Belief is strong. Belief begets action. Hope is weak. Hope is merely something to cling to instead of something to push us forward.

There are a lot of ills in our world. There are a lot of ills within each of us. Yet I don’t hope that we can find a way to improve, I know that we can. Each of us, in our own way, is capable of taking those first steps towards positive change – now, as we near our New Year, and always. I am not hopeful that we can all create the life that we want, I am not hopeful that we can all overcome the trials in our lives…I KNOW that we can.

I don’t hope…I believe.

L’Shana Tova – May we all have the strength to do away with hope, and just believe.


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  1. Hope is about aspiration– and aspiration suggests the courageous conviction that things need not stay the way they are. That can be liberating and redemptive, but it is also threatening: we don’t really corner well, and most of us tend to yield to inertia.

  2. In Greek mythology, Pandora let all the evils of the world out, but there was one little thing rattling around at the bottom at the end–hope. Which means that hope is also an evil, and an antidote to evil, depending on how it is used. Hope has to be tempered with self-awareness and action. Hoping things will get better vs. going out and looking for a job, that kind of thing. It is a strange little gift from the world.

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