“Hope is a crucial survival trait.”
Hope, she argues, is not merely “passive wishful thinking” but a “crucial survival trait.” She noted, “If you don’t have hope that your action is going to make a difference, why bother to do anything? You just become a zombie.”
Jane Goodall in The New Yorker (October 4, 2021)
I picked up a copy of Neil Gaiman’s The Sandman recently—a strange, quite dark, and critically-acclaimed graphic novel concerning a god-like being, Morpheus the Sandman, the king of dreams and nightmares. In one scene, he is battling a demon who has stolen something of his, something very important.
In this dream world, their battle consists of wordplay—ever more complex visions by which to overpower their opponent: “I am a dire wolf, prey stalking, lethal-prowler,” the demon says; to which the Sandman responds, “I am a hunter, horse-mounted, wolf-stabbing.” A horsefly is summoned to sting the horse and overthrow the rider; a spider to kill the horsefly; a snake to devour the spider.
It doesn’t take long for them to reach the cosmic scope: a supernova destroys a whole world the Sandman summoned; the demon uses anti-matter to destroy the universe which he’d created to counter the dying star. Once they’ve reached this point, the demon believes the battle is over. But the Sandman responds with the only thing left in his quiver: “I am hope.”
It’s a strange thing, hope: as Jane Goodall said recently, it’s a survival trait. And yet we are prone to think of hope as mere optimism or wishful thinking. The truth of the matter is that hope is a practice perfected in the moments when we feel it least. It is not escapism, but rather, what we do in the face of despair.
We have all touched despair in one way or another over the past couple of years. And yet, I am hopeful—not because I can see an easy solution to the problems we face, but because I see people practicing hope around me every day. It happens when we gather for worship. It happens when we reach out to others in loving service. It happens when I see people, young and old, discovering what new things God has in store for them.
It happens when we gather and work toward the world God would have for us. Whether you call it a survival trait or a practice, hope is the way we, at St. Paul’s, become the people God has called us to be.
—Fr. JavierTags: From the Clergy, Hope for the Journey