Hope matters. It should not be confused with optimism, though they are siblings.
Vaclav Havel, the Czech playwright, dissident and later beloved statesman, was born in a time and place where it would have been easy to choose hopelessness, but he never did. In his essay, “Never Hope Against Hope,” (note the essay in Esquire originally appeared in 1993, this link is taking you to its reprinting in 2011) Havel wrote, “Hope is definitely not the same thing as optimism. It’s not the conviction that something will turn out well, but the certainty that something makes sense, regardless of how it turns out.”
Vaclav Havel being remembered. From our visit to Prague in 2015.
Spring, by its very being, can fill us with hope. As I type this, tear-shaped petals of many shades of pink float on the breezes. They almost seem to giggle on their way down, so those tear-shapes belong with happy tears, not sad ones. Havel believed, as I do, that “Each of us must find real, fundamental hope within himself. You can’t delegate that to anyone else.”
Havel, a beloved Czech playwright who became the last President of Czechoslovakia and the first President of the Czech Republic, wrote in that same essay about absurdities we can face in our lives. Indeed, he describes an accident, a night two months before he became President, when he was walking a drunk friend home. “In this total darkness, though completely sober, I suddenly fell into a black hole surrounded by a cement wall. The fact is, I had fallen into a sewer, into what can only be called, you’ll excuse me, shit.” It’s a vivid scene and I recommend reading the whole essay.
I have written before about hope. My personal favorite is from spring, two years ago, Scaffolding & Hope. But there are more: Choosing Hope, a guest post from Jeanette Michalets, I Feather My Nest with Hope, Contentment & Perspectacles.
Is it any wonder then that my first book published, Done Darkness, is really about finding hope? Yes, it’s an anthology about living with depression, but more than anything, it is about hope, about seeking hope and light, even in the pits. (Or the sewer as Havel had to.) It has done my heart good to read the reviews on Amazon as readers find this book and leave their thoughts. (Shameless plea — if you’ve read the book and found meaning, hope or something that connects for you or a dear one, could you please, please leave a review at Amazon or Goodreads? Those reviews help other readers find the book – help us spread hope.) As I wrote earlier this year, Kathy Lanzarotti (my co-editor) and I often said we wished we could have made “Carry On,” by Fun, our book’s theme song. One verse in particular always speaks to me:
‘Cause here we are
We are shining stars
We are invincible
We are who we are
On our darkest day
When we’re miles away
Sun will come
We will find our way home
We have a wedding in our family next week. In the life of families in our era of living so separately, weddings seem to be the last remaining time to get-together to share in the celebration of love and hope. My older son, the groom, asked me years and years ago, “Do you have to find meaning in everything?” That was when this blog was called Finding Meaning With Words. Yes, I said. Yes, I do.
And apparently, so did Vaclav Havel, “…life is too precious a thing to permit its devaluation by living pointlessly, emptily, without meaning, without love, and, finally, without hope.”