“To live without hope is to cease to live” –Fyodor Dostoevsky
I’ve been thinking about the word “hope” a lot lately. It has 2 different meanings to me: a wish for something, and a lifeline.
As a wish, it is to want something to happen. I hope I can make it through this week. I hope I win the lottery. I hope this new dish I’m making is edible. It can be something that I know is inevitable, like getting through a rough week, but I am longing to be on the other side of it. Or, it can be something that is a pipe dream, like a lottery jackpot, but imagining that dream becoming reality sparks something in me. It gives me a different spring in my step and it’s like I am holding onto a secret. A hint of a wistful smile crosses my face when I think about it. It may never happen, but there is joy and excitement in that hope.
Then, there is the other type of hope. It is heavier and carries much greater consequences with it. I hope I don’t get fired. I hope this storm doesn’t hit my house. I hope I can make it home in time to say goodbye. To use the word “hope” here feels a little odd. It’s such an optimistic word, but these are such gloomy situations. But the optimistic aspect of hope here is that the situation will be at least a tiny bit better if the hoped thing is realized.
What is the opposite of hope? I think it’s despair, fear, and…I want to say hopelessness but not sure what other words describe hopelessness. Having no hope means that I have to accept a situation just as it is and I don’t know if I can do that. The situation may change my plans, disrupt my worldview, or fill me with fear of having this as my new reality. I don’t want to, or I am so weary from this situation already I don’t have the strength to adjust my thinking to accept this. I hope it changes and I hope this isn’t my new normal.
Can we survive without hope? I don’t think we can. Life is rough, and hope gives us the anticipation that it will be better than it is right now.
Hope is part of the good around me. The first, lighter version of hope gives me a reason to try new things, to imagine, and to take chances. The second version of hope gives me something I can dig my nails into as I hold on when it seems like the floor has dropped from beneath my feet. And, as Dostoevsky says, without either we cease to live.