The On Being Project

Hope Is the Place Where Joy Meets the Struggle

Of all the virtues, “hope” is one of the most-needed in our time. When people ask me how I stay hopeful in an era of widespread darkness, I answer simply: “Hope keeps me alive and creatively engaged with the world.”

When privileged people like me choose hopelessness over hope, it’s not a reflection of the state of the world. It’s a reflection of the state of our souls.

If I were to lose hope and turn to cynicism, what would I do? Sit in a corner, stare at the wall, and suck my thumb? When people like me allow ourselves to become hopeless — while there’s so much we can do for those who are truly suffering — we need to remind ourselves that opting out is not a fit way for a grown-up to live.

Here’s one of my favorite quotes on the nature of hope by a fine writer named Victoria Safford. If you’d like to hear me read Safford’s piece, here’s a recording:

It comes from my onstage interview that Krista Tippett did with Courtney Martin and me. We had spent over an hour talking about spirituality and social change when Krista asked me to read a brief piece to close us out. I could think of nothing more appropriate:

by Victoria Safford

Our mission is to plant ourselves at the gates of hope — not the prudent gates of Optimism, which are somewhat narrower; nor the stalwart, boring gates of Common Sense; nor the strident gates of self-righteousness, which creak on shrill and angry hinges; nor the cheerful, flimsy garden gate of “Everything is gonna be all right,” but a very different, sometimes very lonely place, the place of truth-telling, about your own soul first of all and its condition, the place of resistance and defiance, the piece of ground from which you see the world both as it is and as it could be, as it might be, as it will be; the place from which you glimpse not only struggle, but joy in the struggle — and we stand there, beckoning and calling, telling people what we are seeing, asking people what they see.

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