How to Find Hope in a Despairing World

Hope is the thing with feathers
That perches in the soul
And sings the tune without the words
And never stops at all.
 ~ Emily Dickinson

Apart from the basics of food and shelter there are only a few things we need in this dimension: People to love; something to do day-to-day that gives us a sense of fulfilment; and something to hope for. Hope is an essential ingredient to have when confronted with what seems to be a world careering into madness. Hope is not the solution to our problems but as Emily Dickenson says – it perches in our soul (such a beautiful poet).

There is much to be thankful for in this world and yet so many people are losing hope. Life they say is too complicated. Too many people. Too much agro. Too much inequality and hardship. Hope is not perching in our soul but has flown the coop.

The recent shocking shootings in Las Vegas got me thinking about hope and what it is to be human. We ask the question: how is it that people can be so evil and yet outwardly appear somewhat normal? It all seems so random. Are we abandoning hope in our time of great creativity and abundance?

I have a friend with whom I have some thoroughly interesting chats. He has leanings to Christianity and doesn’t see that much hope for the world; believing that it will all unravel soon with some sort of apocalypse being inevitable. He points out events like the Las Vegas shooting – it’s all going pear-shaped as fear escalates.

Sure the potential for a collapse is there. But inevitable? Certainly not. I see the world as fairly peaceful for the most part. It is dysfunctional no doubt but I like to point out that the history of humanity is one of periods of great calamity mixed with remarkable advances. As a species, we have faced enormous challenges and survived for 200,000 years. The challenge of rising above the current pressures of people living in a crammed world is just another on a long journey.


I believe we find hope by understanding the difference between “the world” and “our world”. Put simply “our world” is exactly that – the world we inhabit everyday. The people we meet, places we go. “The world” is the one that is given to us in the media or gleaned from people who have a need to dump their stuff on us. The latter is nebulous and based on fear. We acknowledge it, but understand that it may or may not exist, depending on the motivations of who is giving us an earful.

So for those who believe that the world is slowly being destroyed – let hope rain down and wash away all their hubris of thinking they can predict what’s going to happen. My five cents worth of advice would be to say: create something beautiful every day. Forget about “the world” and do good in “your world” but don’t let events in the former be the motivation.

Live simply, love simply, grow up simply, then grow old simply.

To have hope is to sense a possibility; a future that shines a little brighter because we understand that “now” is a little dim. If our world right now is exactly how we want it to be then we wouldn’t need hope. The fact that we have hope suggests we are acknowledging that our current situation smells a bit off and needs to change.

Hope is not ignoring the facts. It’s not pretending or wishing things to be different. We all acknowledge the shitefulness that goes on. A lot of people are truly mean and horrible. On the outside they can appear quite descent but inside their souls are corrupted. I have a friend who works in real estate. Many years of working has left him feeling despondent and cynical. On a regular basis he gets to see “nice’ people turn into ghouls when fighting over inheritances. Money does that to people. We can’t gloss over the inhumanity.

But in acknowledging that the world is going a bit off the rails we have to be careful. Because if we aren’t, we start to wantonly believe what others are selling. Then life grinds us down. We have to be on our guard. We can’t afford to lose hope thinking that the world is what we get on the news or hear from a neighbour who sees malevolence lurking around every corner. It’s mostly bollox. It behoves us to pull ourselves back from the world and see it for what it is. A kaleidoscopic mishmash of people, places and events that in it’s own evolutionary way is pretty much how it’s meant to be. In fact, in a metaphysical sense, it’s perfect. But I won’t be elaborating on that here – that’s one for later.

In our precious time here, we must remind ourselves to only pluck from the tree of life the fruit that we need. Ok, so we pick a rotten piece from time to time. That doesn’t mean we have to involve ourselves in the all singing, all dancing crap of the world. Live simply, love simply, grow up simply, then grow old simply. And when we look to the horizon, see the glimmer of hope. It’s there. It really is. We just have to open our eyes – wide.

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Categories: Culture, Spirituality

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