“Hope” is the thing with feathers –
That perches in the soul –
And sings the tune without the words –
And never stops – at all –
And sweetest – in the Gale – is heard –
And sore must be the storm –
That could abash the little Bird
That kept so many warm –
I’ve heard it in the chillest land –
And on the strangest Sea –
Yet – never – in Extremity,
It asked a crumb – of me.
Hope is the second of the three theological virtues: the primaries to which all Christians are exhorted to commit themselves unwaveringly. Faith and charity are interlocked with hope. Hope is a mirror to faith, for faith posits God’s love and mercy. Hope makes charity possible, for without it one would merely hug one’s assets to his chest and cower from involvement with others. Hope’s polar opposite, despair, amounts to the forsaking of God, for God is Love.
But to retain one’s hope when things are tough expresses something else, as well: courage. C. S. Lewis called courage the testing point of all other virtues:
This, indeed, is probably one of the Enemy’s motives for creating a dangerous world—a world in which moral issues really come to the point. He sees as well as you do that courage is not simply one of the virtues, but the form of every virtue at the testing point, which means, at the point of highest reality. A chastity or honesty, or mercy, which yields to danger will be chaste or honest or merciful only on conditions. Pilate was merciful till it became risky. [The Screwtape Letters]
In this hope resembles all the other virtues. To maintain one’s hope in the darkness – to continue to fight, work, and hope when it seems utterly pointless – demands courage.
I filched the following from Mike Miles:
How true that is. It’s easy to “hope” for continued prosperity, continued security, continued peace. Hope is at its truest when all that we value has been taken from us, with no relief in sight, yet we grit our teeth and soldier on. He who rises from disaster’s rubble, girds his loins, marshals his forces, and goes forth to strive afresh knows what hope really is…and what it asks of us.
Just now things are pretty bleak. Americans have lost much; in the foreseeable future, we’ll lose even more. The forces of evil are relentless. They cannot be defeated permanently, for they refuse to accept defeat. As Tolkien told us, the Shadow will take a fresh shape and grow again.
But that’s just one more argument for hope. If the tyrants and destroyers refuse to accept defeat, why should the good people of the world accept it? Are we not at least as strong and resolute as they? Can’t we match their determination with our own? Indeed, isn’t that the central test of existence?
At irregular intervals I find myself at the computer, fingers poised over the keys, but unable to write in the face of the counsel of despair: What’s the use? What have I succeeded in improving? What reason do I have to think that anything will change because of what I might say? Haven’t I said quite enough already? Aren’t there better ways to spend what remains of my life?
At such times I need a hope refresher. It comes in various guises, some of which are harder to discern than others. Maybe I’ll encounter a favorite book or poem, or hear an uplifting piece of music. Maybe I’ll recharge after reading some Web colleague’s recent emission. Or maybe someone who’s read one of my novels will write to me to express his appreciation. All I need to do is remain awake and alert; hope will find its way back into my soul.
God, too, is relentless. He washes His hands of no one. Hope is simply the recognition of that truth.
Just a few casually nonpolitical but hopeful words from the crazy Catholic commentator who arrogantly continues to vent his assorted foolishnesses onto the World Wide Web. Please enjoy your day – and remain hopeful. In parting, have an old anthem from the Seventies:
And may God bless and keep you all.