If we are honest most of us are sick and tired of getting pointers on Covid-19. Some of us are just plain sick (ill) because of the virus and yet all of us are hoping to survive this dismal pandemic.
Hope, once regarded as the “pie in the sky” pastry delight of ‘fool fool’ religionists, seems now to be almost everyone’s daily bread!
In a previous column I defined hope as “confident assurance about the ‘not yet’” and dared to suggest that we are all creatures of hope whether we be areligious, anti-religious or ardently religious.
Christians and others say, maybe too glibly, “this too will pass” and justify that hope by the slowing down of the death stats in China and the news of a Cuban or other antidote in the making, but the deeper hope is that you and I will live to benefit from such antidotes.
Hope has had a checkered history over time. and indeed in sections of Greek literature, it was regarded as an evil, not a good.
You have no doubt heard about Pandora’s box, actually it is Pandora’s jar but we won’t worry about that detail just now. So, let me tell you one version of the story.
Once there were two brothers with interesting Greek names who shared a home, Prometheus and Epimetheus. The meaning of the name Prometheus is ‘one who thinks before= forethought’. The meaning of Epimetheus is ’one who thinks after = afterthought’.
As the story goes, Prometheus was a very courageous and adventurous young man who decided to creep up on the gods on Mount Olympus and steal fire for humans. He planned his trip well and one day he ascended Mt. Olympus and sneaked behind the back of Zeus, the chief god, and stole fire and brought it down to mankind. When the gods discovered what he had done they all decided to punish him and all humans with him.
The gods agreed to get at Prometheus through his not so bright brother Epimetheus, so they created a woman for him to meet and marry and each of the gods contributed something peculiar to the woman to make her as attractive as possible to Epimetheus.
So, they made her absolutely gorgeous, ravishing in fact, but they did not give her much in terms of brains and one of the gods made a very attractive jar for her to keep but warned her never to open the jar. The woman’s name was Pandora (her name in Greek means ‘every gift’).
The gods brought Pandora and her jar to Epimetheus and after one look, he decided that he must have her as his wife. So, he married her, and she joined Epimetheus and Prometheus in their home.
Day after day when the brothers left home for work, Pandora became more and more fascinated with the jar the gods had given her and she wondered what might be in the jar why the gods told her never to open it. After a long while, curiosity got the better of Pandora and she gently opened the jar and as the story goes, out of the jar came all of the plagues of humanity and the last plague to come out of the jar, according to the Greeks, was hope.
Hope, a plague? Yes, so the Greeks saw it. But why did they see hope as a plague? The Greeks said hope was a plague or an evil because it kept humans from giving up or committing suicide in response to their current miserable or dismal situation.
Hope, I told you is confident assurance about the not yet but seen as an evil by the Greeks. But what the Greeks saw as an evil, we today realize is a good, and a universal good too because all of us are creatures of hope.
Whether you are religious, irreligious, a skeptic an atheist an agnostic or whatever, you are a creature of hope – a person who uses hope. To believe that there is a future is to indulge hope, whether that future is near or distant, hope is involved. As silly as it may sound to you even to believe that you will finish reading this article is to indulge hope.
The belief that there will be a ‘later on’ or a tomorrow is to hope. To believe that your problems can be solved by doing a, b or c is to hope – to have confident assurance about the not yet. Every ‘not yet’ about which you feel some degree of confidence involves hope.
Indeed, even the person who is planning to or actually commits suicide to put an end to his/her problems, is indulging hope. He or she hopes death will end it all but what if there is an afterlife with rewards and punishments as some religionists claim?
None of us can really escape hope because whether we like it or not hope is fundamental in life even if that life is not good. I say it again all of us are creatures of hope.
But just think with me a bit, ponder this, even though hope is so fundamental in life it is a fragile commodity and can disappoint so easily. Because of its fragile nature the one hoping often holds on to hope with some degree of nervousness.
What hope promises provides pleasure, but that hope might not deliver the goods promised, produces an element of pain.
So then, let’s get it clear in our thinking, everyone needs hope but it is not every hope that qualifies as good hope, and the difference among humankind rests not on the fact that some hope while others do not: the difference has to do with the guarantee/guarantor that grounds one’s hope.It is the guarantee or the guarantor that grounds your hope which determines whether it is just ‘blind optimism’ or ‘confident realism’. So, I urge you to revisit and reexamine the nature of your hope.