There are many things that separate humans from animals, even our closest relatives, the great apes. I have always considered that the most important one of these is hope.
Animals don’t hope. They tolerate, they expect, and sometimes they suffer in silence. But they don’t hope, despite what we might like to think.
For us, hope comes in many ways, at very different levels. We can have everyday hopes. We might hope to win the lottery, or hope that a planned trip can be done in good weather. Some might hope that they will get a phone call from a friend or relative today, whilst others simply hope to have the strength to get out of bed and face the day ahead.
But most of our hoping is very serious. Hope for good health, and long life. Hope to enjoy the benefits of retirement, and hope for the same for those near and dear to us. There is hope that medical treatment will work; alleviating suffering, or prolonging life. Hoping that fertility treatment will bring the child that is desired, or that the morning after pill stops that same thing happening.
In the modern world of social media, some hope for popularity, a notion of success based on contacts or likes. We hope that people find us attractive, amusing, and want to be close to us. And most people hope to find love. Not just any love, but true love, everlasting, fairy-tale love. And if that goes wrong, hope gets us through, and allows us to continue to hope that it will eventually be found.
Parents hope for better lives for their children. They hope that the future will bring happiness to their offspring, and make it all worthwhile. Then those children in turn hope to do well in exams, find a good job, and continue the cycle of humanity.
Many people hope for others. They hope that society will evolve to be fairer, and allow the same opportunities for all. They hope to see disease eradicated, animal extiction stopped, and climate change reversed. They spend their lives hoping selflessly, asking nothing for themselves.
Everyone hopes. Wherever they live, whatever language they speak, however rich or poor their condition in life, they hope. Billionaires hope for more billions, and people living on the streets hope for something to eat, and a dry place to sleep. Artists hope for recognition, writers hope for publication. Teachers hope that their students will learn something, and soldiers hope that it won’t be them who is killed or wounded.
Religious people hope that the afterlife they believe in will actually happen, and atheists secretly hope that too.
Hope is constant. Every day, even when we are not aware of it, we hope. The word itself has become so common, it is easy to see why its importance may have become trivialised. We all say things like “Hope you have a nice time”, “Hope the traffic isn’t too bad on your way home”, or “Hope to see you again soon”. But that is just a word, and not real ‘Hope’.
Hope might well be the one thing that keeps us going in adversity. Hope stops us walking away, living our lives under clouds of depression, and allows us to carry on with the mundane, with the prospect of something better on the horizon. Hope keeps us balanced, and in some cases, keeps us sane.
Without hope, there is only reality.
Let’s all keep hoping.