Friday, January 28, 2011

Why Hope? Why Not?

We live for the dawn – “tomorrow is another day”, we tell ourselves a la Scarlett. We sleep every day with the hope that the next morning will bring something better, something more worthwhile. We wish each other joyously at the end of the year, hoping that the next year will bring happiness, success, satisfaction and what not. We greet our near and dear ones on their birthdays, on festive occasions, wishing and dreaming for them all the nice stuff. Hope is integral to our makeup, our cultures – it is, one might even go so far as to suggest – the oxygen that keeps us alive. Indeed, a world without hope, a life without hope, may well be one many of us might consider not living at all!

And yet, with a few exceptions, we are also creatures of habit. We like to buy toothbrushes of a certain color, we prefer a specific side of the bed, we crave that smoke after lunch, we live today as we were yesterday, or the year before, or in our past lives. We love efficiency, and efficiency demands standardization, and we often go to great lengths to standardize most aspects of our lives. We change clothes, but not our sense of fashion; we read books, but not our textual preferences; we interact socially, but seldom share outside of our comfort group; we crave thrills, but rarely stray from our favorite pastimes.

And, yet, we hope. Do we even realize how severely hope may cripple our pathological disposition towards a sense of continuity and sameness? Do we pause for a moment to think that we may have to rewire our entire neural network and even re-examine our value systems if some of the things we hope for were to come true? What if we did win the Nobel / Booker / Oscar? What if that dream job really were ours? What if we made the team? What if we won that lottery? What if that deal came through? What if that beautiful girl or that amazing man did love us back? What if there were no global warming, no wars? What if we were all the same?

What if tomorrow really were another day?

I imagine, sometimes, at the dead of night, restless and aching, that tomorrow I might get that long-awaited call, and my world would be set right. But, truly, what would change? How much? Could I cope with it?

Could I cope with the knowledge that there is little left to worry about? Would I be able to handle the fact that all my dreams have come true? Would I be able to accept that I was a new man? Would I be able to digest my new life – the one I have been hoping for?

Yes, I would like to believe! That’s the whole point of hoping, and dreaming, isn’t it? That’s the reason we all hope, right – because we believe that world, that life, that alternate reality to be the better one, for us?

For us! Surely, that’s where the trap lies! For we hope, we dream as static beings. In our inherent arrogance, we believe we know ourselves. In our infinite stupidity, we believe we will remain who we are, impervious to what happens around us, or to us. When we hope for the better future for us, the ‘us’ is our opinion, seldom validated and rarely correct, of who we really are – and, by extension, what we really want. And, even for the few of us who truly are self-aware, the ‘us’ remains merely a static reflection – true perhaps of that point in time, but almost never so before or after.

So, the question is: if we are so averse to change, and if our hopes are so illogical – by their very nature and following the rationale shared above – why do we still hope?

The obvious answer is: because we do not realize this logic. But, I don’t buy that – we are an intelligent species, after all, and hope is a universal thing, common to every level of IQ and EQ and ‘X’Q. Why, then?

The answer is probably somewhat more abstract. Perhaps, the cause lies not in the specific hopes that all of us nurture, but in the idea of hope itself – the idea of a better future in this life or the next, or in the afterlife, as per our religious inclination. The specific hopes are, in all probability, a useful myth, in much the same way that a mirage is to a lost soul in an endless desert. They are a motivational tool we equip ourselves with, a defense mechanism against a wide array of negative emotions and behavior ranging from plain laziness to severe depression.

Hope is oxygen – I asserted above. And, perhaps, that was not far from the truth, for hope does indeed fuel the engine that is the human brain. But, to my mind, the analogy between hope and oxygen and how they relate to the human being goes deeper. Yes, like oxygen, hope gives us life. But also, like oxygen, hope circulates through our systems – our minds and hearts – replenishing us and emerges changed and a little scathed, like carbon dioxide. Perhaps, as plants soak up our CO2, the ecosystem around us soak up our spent hopes: the scars on the walls of our houses, the cigarette butts that line our walks, the smashed car panes in the dead of night, the bombed out shells of once-proud tanks, the semi-lit corners of bars with barely discernible movement, the pained eyes of our near and dear ones, the deep red pavements and the empty medication and the recently sharp razors, perhaps even the slightly smudged mirrors ever so hazy and out of focus.

Hope is useful. It is deliberate. It is a device of our own making. And, therefore, it is something we can control. The question is: do we want to?

Some schools of thought and, indeed, some religions, suggest that we do. They call it ‘expectations’, ‘maya’. Hope enslaves us, they suggest, and so we should let go of it to be free.

I submit otherwise. Hope is useful, I reiterate, and it is our tool. The trick must lie not in letting go of hope – or expectations, or maya – for hope does fulfill a very basic and universal human need (the need to live for something or someone, even if that ’someone’ is ourselves), but in understanding the nature of hope and believing and exercising our ability, as creators, to control this tool.

Let hope carry us from this day to the next, but if we arrive to find our hopes blown asunder, let us understand that this is merely because their purpose in getting us through to that point in our lives is done. Let us not forget to breathe in again – let us replenish our minds and hearts with new hopes specially suited for us at that specific point in time.

Let us never ever forget: tomorrow is, indeed, another day.

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1 comment:

Sakshi said...

Eloquently captured