An Italian Jew

Hope, by Vaclev Havel

I have long subscribed to a piece by Vaclev Havel, entitled Hope. I've also referred to it many times in my work, especially during my time as a facilitator with the James P. Shannon Leadership Institute. I am amazed how it comes back to me, from time to time, when I need to be reminded of the source of my hope and to always distinguish it from optimism.

Recently, I experienced a rather serious health issue that has put me into a place of reflection and wonder at the nature of life. I've been through physical heath issues before, but this was unique because it was routine with a twist.

In my view, I've passed 80% of gaining my heath back, as I sit here on Shabbat, watching the Twins in Spring Training, providing me with optimism that I will reach 100% before too long. These thoughts, along with all that's happening in the world, Havel came to my mind again.


Hope, by Vaclev Havel

The kind of hope I often think about (especially in situations that are particularly hopeless, such as prison) I understand above all as a state of mind, not a state of the world. Either we have hope within us or we don’t; it is a dimension of the soul; it’s not essentially dependent on some particular observation of the world or estimate of the situation. Hope is not prognostication. It is an orientation of the spirit, an orientation of the heart; it transcends the world that is immediately experienced, and is anchored somewhere beyond its horizons.

Hope, in this deep and powerful sense, is not the same as joy that things are going well, or willingness to invest in enterprises that are obviously headed for early success, but, rather, an ability to work for something because it is good, not just because it stands a chance to succeed. The more unpropitious the situation in which we demonstrate hope, the deeper that hope is.

Hope is definitely not the same thing as optimism. It is not the conviction that something will turn out well, but the certainty that something makes sense, regardless of how it turns out. In short, I think that the deepest and most important form of hope, the only one that can keep us above water and urge us to good works, and the only true source of the breathtaking dimension of the human spirit and its efforts, is something we get, as it were, from “elsewhere.” It is also this hope, above all, which gives us the strength to live and continually to try new things, even in conditions that seem as hopeless as ours do, here and now.


Shabbat Shalom - Steve

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