Hope v. optimism

My policy, up here in the High Doganate, my ivory tower, is to maintain an attitude towards the world, down there, that is consistently sceptical and pessimistic. It is a policy that has been tested by events, and has seldom failed, if ever. There are, let me admit, moments when I have indulged a mushy sentimentality, relaxing my guard; when I have entertained the rather liberal thought, “things are getting better.” And I have been duly punished for each of these phantasias. For no, things are terrible, often getting worse, and anyone who thinks human life will end well, hasn’t been shoved into a ventilator yet. It is the one positive thing we might say about the Batflu; that it serves as a much overdue reminder — that if we are not dead yet, we will be, soon enough. In my view, it is the fate of optimists to be routinely suckered.

But this does not mean I am not hopeful. Or that, while I tend to be generous in my criticisms, things aren’t passable as they are.

Now, if gentle reader thinks I am going to blather on about Heaven, in the manner of a Born Again Happyface, he has guessed correctly. I don’t actually know anything about that place, except what I have glimpsed in fleeting moments; or have construed from my religion. From both I gather that our hope, when it is genuine, lifts us out of worldly conditions, disconnects us from our prospects down here. Moreover, these moments link or knit to each other, not to anything we might trade. As the saints have discerned, or so I speculate, futurity is now.

Hope is indicated, and to be cheerfully expressed in our works, as a lawyer might say. An optimist expects things to turn out well; a pessimist merely hopes to be wrong, for a change. But being right as usual needn’t disappoint him. We know that we will fail, in the end, but we do not hope for failure. Rather we hope for a good resolution, leaving this to the divine.

The hope is in Eternity, of course, but into our mundane life, it will frequently spill over. The beauty that is rejected (as “irrelevant” and unprofitable) in contemporary practical living, will be visible to the hopeful at the strangest times. It will appear in the most ridiculous situations. We must do our best to be prepared for them.

This is why I find dark humour so encouraging. It invites us to cease hoping for the wrong things.