Two shades of hope

“Hope deferred makes the heart sick,
but a longing fulfilled is a tree of life.”
Proverbs 13:12
“Gatsby believed in the green light, the orgastic future that year by year recedes before us. It eluded us then, but that’s no matter – tomorrow we will run faster, stretch out our arms farther… and one fine morning –
So we beat on, boats against the current, borne back ceaselessly into the past.”
Great Gatsby – F Scott Fitzgerald
I’m feeling a bit philosophical today and I’ve been doing some thinking which is always dangerous.
On Friday night I went to see Foy Vance play again this time in Manchester with Nicola. The last time I saw him was a few weeks ago (I’m becoming a bit of a groupie) in Bury and because I’m a wuss one of his songs made me cry both times.
At the Bury gig he told us how people have said to him that he is an ambassador for hope, because he sings about it so much. He explained he wasn’t sure that was necessarily a good thing since hope is a double-edged sword. And then he sang “hope deals the hardest blows”.
I’ve been thinking about this. Misplaced hope is soul destroying but when the things you hope for happen there’s almost nothing better. The statement from Proverbs really is true. What’s worse, not recovering from cancer or believing that you would recover and not recovering? What’s better, recovering from cancer or hoping you would and actually getting better?
It’s not always clear cut. What about if you love someone and it seems hopeless that they will ever love you back? The divide between people who had their hopes fulfilled and their hopes crushed probably falls right through the middle.
When you hope for something you can’t see it can become all-consuming. Nic and I were chatting about this the other day – even if 95 per cent of your life is glorious, if the 5 per cent is an unfulfilled desire it can make the rest pale into insignificance. It’s easy for people to wonder why someone could be miserable when they see the 95 per cent and put everything into proportion. To that person though, there is still a hole where the missing 5 should be and the rest can’t make up for that.
I very rarely think about hope being a bad thing. But to hope for something that will never be does lead to misery and crushing disappointment.
Hope drives us to do things we might never do, to try harder, to raise our expectations. Sometimes this brings us what we desire. Sometimes it just wears us out.
So I’ve been wondering – how do you tell the two kinds of hope apart? How do you know which hope is actually hopeless and which is hopeful? How often should we get back up, dust ourselves down and try again? And even if I decide to stop hoping for something, how do I even begin to tell myself that I don’t really want what my soul craves so desperately?
Is it human nature to hope against hope? And if I hope against the odds does that make me a stronger character? Or am I just being an idiot?
Told you I was feeling thoughtful! Go and chew that over.

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