With the recent mass shootings in Gilroy, El Paso, and Dayton, plus the ICE raid in Mississippi, hope often feels hard to find.
Listening to the On Being podcast by Krista Tippett helps me not abandon hope. Her recent conversation with Jonathan Rowson offered many thoughts on hope that I share in this month’s post, including words of Vaclav Havel and Roberto Unger.
Jonathan Rowson has studied the brain, philosophy, economics, and education. He directed the Social Brain Centre at the Royal Society of Arts and is co-founder and Director of Perspectiva — a research organization in London that examines the relationship between systems, souls, and society.
Words of Vaclav Havel:
“Hope is a state of mind, not of the world. It is an orientation of the spirit and orientation of the heart; it transcends the world that is immediately experienced and is anchored somewhere beyond its horizons.
Hope, in this deep and powerful sense, is not the same as joy that things are going well, or willingness to invest in enterprises that are obviously heading for success, but rather an ability to work for something because it is good, not just because it stands a chance to succeed.
The more propitious the situation in which we demonstrate hope, the deeper the hope is. Hope is definitely not the same thing as optimism. It is not the conviction that something will turn out well, but the certainty that something makes sense, regardless of how it turns out.”
Thoughts by Rowson:
“…with the question of hope, I think it’s incumbent on anyone who would define their work as being in some sense about changing the world — and that can be quite a hubristic notion, of course — but anyone who is trying to fashion better forms of living, they need some working theory of hope. And I like the definition of Roberto Unger*, as well, which is that hope is the ‘visionary anticipation of a direction.’ It’s not just so much about thinking things will be better, but actually seeing a place that’s worth going to and orienting your will towards that.
When I quite recently created a new organization called Perspectiva, the purpose of the organization, in some ways, is to paint a vision of the future and a pathway of getting there that does instill a certain amount of hope. I think the only way we’re going to do that is if we get better at linking together what we call ‘systems, souls, and society’ —complex systems, including the economy and politics and all that, the totality of our inner worlds, and then, how we talk to each other and how we live together. I think, if we can get better and more nimble and more generous about how we move between those worlds, then the chance of creating a hope that makes sense for all of us is all the greater.”
I invite you to find hope by taking the small step of listening to the entire podcast.
*Roberto Unger is a Brazilian contemporary social theorist, politician, and law professor at Harvard Law School