Wednesday, May 25, 2005

Is Hope, hopeless?

There were some very interesting comments to yesterday’s post (thank you everyone!), some saying that unfounded hope breeds despair. That ‘hope’, without any real chance of achievement, is any empty, dark, place. That my friend and I were essentially talking about opposite sides of the same coin.

I’m not so sure I entirely agree, although I can see how someone could envision it that way. If someone ‘hopes’, or dreams, of things unattainable, yet somewhere internalizes that ‘unattainable’ to being attainable, who’s to say it’s not? Simply because it has not happened, is not proof it won’t.

Sprit of Owl commented that: “Sadly, Einstein died a miserably disheartened man”

I believe Einstein’s disillusionment towards the end of his life was not so much the result of what he wouldn’t have time to achieve, but with what others had done, and planned to do, with his discoveries. He never really imagined that anyone would actually use what he’d uncovered for anything but good. Once he’d seen the destruction, the terror, it could bring in the wrong hands, he spoke of wishing he’d never published his findings.

He said: “If I had only known, I would have been a locksmith.”

Edison, while never creating any weapons of mass destruction, did create, and push for the electric chair. He saw that device as for the public good, today; the jury is still out on that. In any case it wasn’t his design that became the unit of choice anyway. Is it possible his design would have been better if he’d been more committed to the death penalty? I sure don’t know.

Let’s talk about the concept of hope where it leaves the person in despair. What type of hope would cause that? What dream is that person hanging on to that brings them such pain? Is it the hope, the dream, or something else that elicits this despondency?

The simple definition of pure insanity is continuing to do the same things, and expecting that different outcomes will result. Hope, is not an action, it’s a state of mind. To achieve that, which we hope for, requires action on our part.

The simple test (for me) is; are my actions bringing me closer to, or further from, that which I hope for? If the answer is closer to, the only remaining question is one of “what else can I do to move closer, faster”.

If the answer on the other hand, is further from (or simply not closer), the question then is ‘why’. Why are these actions moving you away from what you hope to achieve, and maybe more importantly, why, are you continuing on that course of action?

I can not fathom living with a hope, a dream, where I knew my actions were taking me away from that, and yet continued act in the same manner and to move away. Yes, I’ve dreamed of things I’ve never achieved, but in each case I ended up weighing the ‘cost’ of my dream, of my hopes.

You see everything has a cost. The cost may, or may not, be measured in dollars, but there’s a cost just the same. A cost in forgone opportunity, lost leisure time with friends or family, lost quality time with your partner or children, lost health, something, everything, has a cost.

The question I often ask myself, is do I have ‘enough’ left. Enough, of what ever it is I’m paying to pursue this particular dream. You see, there was a time; I’d pursue my dreams without regard to the cost. I’d pay any price, twice, to get where I wanted to go. I’m no longer quite so willing to pay ‘any’ price, now that I know the true costs.

If I were to achieve any of my dreams and, in the process, lose my wonderful wife, the cost would simply be ‘Too high’… I wouldn’t want it ‘Bad enough’ to give up what it would take to get there. So I’d let the dream go… stop hoping that a ‘miracle’ would happen and I’d get there without the cost (it isn’t going to happen!).

You can look at what many of the people in history ‘gave up’ to achieve their dreams to see what I’m talking about. The number of bankruptcies, failed relationships, ruined businesses that are in the wake of many of the most famous and successful people is staggering to me.

At this stage in my life, I want to be so much more multi-dimensional… to have a much broader focus, than a single minded goal allows.

So, let’s get back to hope, hopelessness and despair. What is at the root of those feelings and emotions? Is it the ‘hope’ itself? Or, is it as I contend, the lack of the correct actions that brings these feelings to our hopes? I know some folks who read this will say, but some people can not do the things they dream of. I contend they can, they just don’t know that yet. Sometimes, you have to take a step, on faith, believe it’s the right step, in order to find out if you’re right, or not.

To remain rooted, in inaction, takes you nowhere.

My blog friend firehawk said:

“Hoping in an idle and forlorn way for something to come to pass via a "miracle" or luck is something that captures people and turns their world to crap. It's these doomed hopes bereft of the energy to ever come true or the real knowledge that they could be, should be...these hopes are like anchor chains across a person's shoulders, because they're just self-deception.”

I couldn’t agree more, except, in my way of thinking, that’s not ‘hope’. Can hope, be, a ‘self-deception’, or is it the antithesis of self-deception? I’ve stated that Webster’s says hope is an aspiration, with an expectation of achievement.

I contend now, as I did in the original argument (oops, ‘discussion’), that delusional, self-deceiving or similar behavior is not ‘hope’, psychiatrists call it ‘self-deluding’ or delusional behavior, not hope.

To me, hope is dreams, imagination coupled with actions, hard work, and possibly a little luck. Let’s face it, there are things that happen that we have little or no ‘control’ over. Events can occur that, despite our best efforts, meticulous preparations and hard work, can or will, wreak havoc with our goals. When those events transpire, it’s time to reevaluate, make new choices and begin to move forward again. Not to cling blindly to the actions that got us here, in a misguided belief that continuing to do the same things will take us somewhere else.

So what do you think?

The next post will be about choice, and the role I believe it plays in our lives, our hopes and our happiness. That post will pretty much wrap up this topic for me, for now. I do hope though that I’ll manage to convince at least one reader that hope is not a bad mental state, but a powerful one when coupled with the right actions.

Thanks again for stopping by. I look forward to your thoughts and comments!


Nic said...

WOW! Profound. I'll have to think of an answer b/c I have a lot of experience of unfounded hope breeding despair and also the other side of that coin: unfounded hope breeding inner strength that one would never have had otherwise.

You express things so well my friend. A WHOLE LOT better than the majority of tech programmers that I know. Beautifully said. I'll be back with my thoughts later - probably tomorrow.

Trevor Record said...

Jeez, I get sick for a couple of days and you get all philosophical. Are you trying to earn that title of "Sage" that I arbitrarily bestowed on you?

Karyn Lyndon said...

Without dreams, and the hope that they will come true, the world would be a black hole of sameness. So what if we don't achieve all of only makes the dreams that do come true that much sweeter.

I'm reminded of my dream to become a published author. Every rejection letter unplugs the life-support on my hope. But, after a few days of wound-licking, I manage to plug it back in and write the next chapter. It's getting back on the path toward my dream that staves off despair.

Firehawk said...

"Is a dream a lie when it don't come true, or is it something worse?"
--Bruce Springsteen
The River

Hope is the innately human thing that allows us to trancend any logical boundary and accomplish goals we're told are out of reach, even insane to pursue. With the potent fuel of hope, even willful self-deception, we can plumb the depths and scale the high places of our human condition.

In hoping, we gamble with our time, energy, and all those indefinable elements of our own psyche. The more we have to stretch and take on faith with our hopes, the grander our hopes in scale, the more we must put up on the sacrificial block. All those who gamble often are familiar with the sting of walking away busted. The same people who will whip the horse's eyes in order to get where they want to be are sometimes also the people who can't bear to consider the day after, when they are desolated by failure.

If curiosity kills cats, hope kills us, we brilliant, hairless apes. To continue with the shop-worn adage, Satisfaction brings us back.

Hope is the bluprint to the device. Determination is the sweat that assembles that rocketshop to Mars. Like Ken alluded to, it comes down to faith eventually, for there comes a time when you leap astride the thundering device of your creation and hope it doesn't explode on the launchpad.

I'm not, after that great and long-winded comment, disagreeing with you. I just say that there's a dark side. Just like there are people who have to stay away from the needle or the bottle or the pipe, there are people who have to learn not to abuse that hoping reflex within them, since they're no more able to control what becomes of their hopes than they are of controling a party balloon let go against a strong breeze.

Braleigh said...

I've thoroughly enjoyed your last few posts though I continue finding myself completely unarmed when it comes to contributing any words of wisdom or worth.

The best way I can think of explaining what I believe is that hope, when used as a mere crutch (or even something less,) can only abet you in your quest through life. But when hope is used as a complete, full-time substitute in place of any form of personal balance, then most assuredly it will lead to despair.

Spirit Of Owl said...

An owl with my condition lives a balancing act all the time. Being bipolar, hope can easily become wild anticipation, or another day, be completely meaningless. Thus, forced into a life of diffident stoicism (sigh), I console myself by remembering that evolution got as far as us before "hope" was ever conceived - and that was with entropy nagging at it all the time!

Yes, humans dream, and hope to fulfill their dreams, but the earth, life itself, and humans, at least from an evolutionary perspective, came into being hope free.

My comment on your last post referred not only to the idea that unfulfilled hopes bring unhappiness, which is certainly true, but also that some people's hopes and dreams are, for want of a better word, evil. Einstein is in many ways emblematic of this downside to hope. Firstly, he died still working on his dream of a unifying theory, a dream that eluded him for all the latter half his life. And, perhaps worse, as a Jew he was witness to the rise of Nazism, and of course, the dawn of the atomic age.

Once again, thanks for your thought provoking posts.

Bill said...

Nic: Thanks, I'm looking forward to your thoughts. (I'm not really a techie, I just play one for pay)

Trevor: Of course, I've always wanted to be a sage... I get to wear one of those cool robes if I do right?

Kayrn: I hope you like todays piece, it deals with precisely your choices when rejected! I hope you agree.

Firehawk: You're correct, hope, like many things, can be abused. There are options, or at least I think so, that can be used to minimize that. For those rooted in 'inaction' though, I fear like other addictive behaviors, the result is all too predictable!

Braleigh: Exactly, hope can't be anything but a component, if it over takes the living of life, the 'balance' as you put it is way off!

Spirit: I'm pondering if what you're referring to is the downside of 'hope', or simply a result of the fact that so many things are outside of our ability to control them. Sometimes, the result of achieving that which we hope for, has consequences that we did not foresee. I need to think on that a bit.

Thank you all, for continuing to read, and respond with such great thoughts and comments. Each one today set me off to thinking... which, to me, is always a great thing!

Greg said...

Ah Billie, Billie, Billie, you wouldn't let me down!

Hope and dreams in the same sentence? In my mind they have nothing to do with each other, faith and hope are sisters, though hope the less charitable one of the family. I shall right (not a grammar error) the definitive essay on the subject and e-mail you!
I HOPE I can do a good job, its a chance I'll just have to take. :-)

In the mean time try "The Snow Fell" story at my li' ol' site, ya'll.

Bill said...

Greg: So you do remember the conversation we had that prompted this series! :)

Man, I need to write a story about Abe and Herb... and that day at that motel... I knew that was gonna be a 'E' ticket ride, just didn't know it would be all downhill!!

I look forward to your, ummmm, 'definitive', essay... heh-heh... you do write with authority at times!

Greg said...

Conviction...Conviction! I write with times...

Bill said...

Greg: Ok, conviction then! Man I haven't thought of the 'oids in a long time, now I can't get them out of my head... thanks.. sheeeshh