Hope is endemic to humanity. When we hope, we look forward to a better day. And in a world like ours, looking forward to a better day comes naturally to us. If we live, we hope.
As teenagers we hope to find true love in our relationships. We hope that our lives and future employment will be significant. In our twenties and thirties we perhaps hope that we will be able to marry; we may struggle to have children, and hope that we will be blessed with a child. We end up in places of employment where we struggle with drudgery and long for meaningful employment. Perhaps we become caught in violent relationships and end up hoping that our partner will change and treat us with respect and dignity. As we grow older we may hope for many other things. We begin to long for retirement. We might desire that our children find a suitable life partner. We may become philosophical and perhaps begin to hope for an end to oppression and injustice. We desire that poverty and sickness be alleviated. All our lives we live in hope.
And even in the most dire situations, people will dare to hope. Imprisoned in the most horrific conditions, Jews in concentration camps hoped that they would be rescued. Prisoners on death row cling on to hope to the very end. In the most torturous situations, people will continue to hope. In fact it seems to me that the moment that people give up hope, they give up life.
But what if human hope is nothing but a vain delusion? What if there is no better day? So many of us have experienced hope becoming reality, and the reality itself has been far less satisfying that the positive feeling of hope that preceded the reality. It seems to me that much of what we hope for, far from satiating our desires, merely leaves our inmost being parched, driving us to hope for something else. Thus we live our lives in the perpetual pursuit of what we do not possess.
Why do we hope? Why is it that we like mice run on a treadmill never reaching our goal? Is hope some evolutionary survival mechanism that prevents us from cutting short our otherwise pointless lives? Perhaps in some sad twist of fate, those who managed to develop hope managed to survive better than those who could not. But if this is the case, does this not leave us in a terrible predicament? Our hope is at best useful and at worst irrational, for in the final analysis, while it may spur us on to great deeds in life, the grave mocks all human hope with its certainty and its finality.