Two Conflicting Views of Hope

Two authors I admire a lot have written very conflicting views about hope. Here’s Derrick Jensen:

Frankly, I don’t have much hope. But I think that’s a good thing. Hope is what keeps us chained to the system, the conglomerate of people and ideas and ideals that is causing the destruction of the Earth…

Hope is, in fact, a curse, a bane. I say this not only because of the lovely Buddhist saying “Hope and fear chase each other’s tails,” not only because hope leads us away from the present, away from who and where we are right now and toward some imaginary future state. I say this because of what hope is…

I’m not, for example, going to say I hope I eat something tomorrow. I just will. I don’t hope I take another breath right now, nor that I finish writing this sentence. I just do them. On the other hand, I do hope that the next time I get on a plane, it doesn’t crash. To hope for some result means you have given up any agency concerning it. Many people say they hope the dominant culture stops destroying the world. By saying that, they’ve assumed that the destruction will continue, at least in the short term, and they’ve stepped away from their own ability to participate in stopping it.

And here’s Clay Claiborne:

For someone sitting on the very edge of survival, hope is extremely important. Often it is only hope, sometimes even false hope, that allows him to make it to the next day. That is one of the reasons that religion has always found such a resonance among the lower classes, especially in times of great hardship or struggle. Cynicism is deadly for someone on the edge of survival. Even in the darkest night, he cannot afford to be cynical. That cynicism just might push him over the edge.

I’ve personally done a lot of thinking about what these two authors are saying. I would encourage you to do the same. That’s because I believe that unless our thinking is challenged…its not really thinking at all.

Nancy LeTourneau

Nancy LeTourneau is a contributing writer for the Washington Monthly.