It’s tempting to look at the current state of the world and lose hope, but Hope is an impulse that seems to be in the ascendant, against all odds. As an example, take the recent British general election which, as an Englishman, I followed with close attention. In the election’s surprising aftermath, journalists interviewed a number of young people about why they had actually voted, and to find out why so many had supported the Corbyn-led Labour party.
As I followed these responses on radio, TV and online, I noticed that while a few mentioned specific policies, a large majority simply said that Jeremy Corbyn and the Labour platform represented hope. And hope is needed, particularly by the rising generation for whom the remainder of the 21st century looks increasingly threatening.
This feeling of hope seemed to reflect something more than ‘hope for something’, though many clearly also had specific policies in mind. As I listened to and watched these young voters enthusiastic responses, my impression was that they felt hope in a deeper way, as something different, and perhaps more profound, than hoping for a particular outcome.
Let’s capitalize such an idea of Hope, then, to represent an objective feeling, one that isn’t connected to a specific aim. In this sense, Hope becomes something that makes life worth living because it represents, among other things, a reason for living, a sense of purpose, and a feeling that help is available, both within ourselves and in the whole structure of the world, seen and unseen.
Instead of trying to understand Hope intellectually, we can come to it through our feeling center, or through what J G Bennett called ‘direct perception’. This is the capacity we all have to see, or know, something to be real without any logical proof. This isn’t just airy fairy, or wishful, thinking, and it is so much a part of our experience that we don’t even notice it. No one thinks it odd that people talk about love, or the beauty of a natural landscape, a butterfly or a piece of music, but none of these perceptions are amenable to ‘proof’. So it is with Hope.
How then can Hope be shared, or shown to be real? If Hope doesn’t conform to logic, then it cannot be proved by demonstration. And Hope, in the face of the present environmental social and political challenges, can look absurd, particularly in the predominant western culture that wants proofs and certainties, and an absence of any sort of hazard.
It is possible to have a direct perception of Hope, and one of the ‘meditation’ practices I was fortunate to learn in my youth - with which I have worked at intermittently for many years - led me to just such a perception. And, once I saw that Hope is real, I found that the feeling was - and is - always available. There is a ‘floor’ under every sense of despair, which make it impossible to give in to the absurdity of our current situation. It is this sense of Hope that people seemed to be referring to in the aftermath of the British election, whether they recognized it in these terms or not.