When I think of Hope, all sorts of things come to my mind. From Leia’s message to Obi Wan in the original Star Wars, to the feeling I get after walking out of an interview for a job I would really like to land. I think we all have a good understanding of what Hope is. It is the yearning for something; it is us looking forward to a result or a happenstance that may or may not come to pass. We hope we will get a raise, we hope that those we love are having a good day, we hope people we miss come to visit. Just like Anger and Wrath hold very different contexts to me, I think it may be better to look a little deeper into the difference between Hoping and wanting.
Why is Hope so virtuous, I always wondered, until I felt despair and saw others in states of despair. I think to fully understand Hope, we must first fully understand its shadow. There have been many times in my life where I have despaired. Whether it be losing a job, a significant other, or simply feeling like a rat on a wheel, working hard but accomplishing nothing. So far, I’ve made it through every single hopeless situation, relatively unscathed. Thankfully, I’ve always had a great support system in my family and friends. When I couldn’t see light at the end of the tunnel and gave up, somebody was always there to drag me out. For that, I’m forever grateful. But what good was I in that state? I certainly wasn’t anybody’s hero when I was a wallowing lout. I was a burden, not because I wasn’t capable of making positive changes, not because I didn’t have the ability to move on, but because I’d given up Hope.
So when I think of Hope and what a difference it could have made in my life, and how having it would have eased the burden of those who love me, I see the virtue to it. When we think of our favourite heroes from books and movies, they are always faced with seemingly impossible challenges. If they gave in to despair, their story would never be told. It always comes down to their belief in a brighter tomorrow, and their relentless effort to see it unfold. Without Hope, nothing would ever change for the better. Without Hope in having a good day even getting out of bed in the morning is daunting and difficult.
So how have I done, so far, when it comes to possessing the Virtue of Hope? I would unfortunately not give myself the greatest rating. Too many times I’ve despaired, too many times I’ve given up, and all too often when I could have made the effort to go forward, I have walked away.
I think back eight years, and I remember the recession, I remember my paychecks being cut in half. I remember keeping my lights off in my apartment and using headphones to watch TV so the Strata council wouldn’t know I was home when they came, again, to collect the money I couldn’t pay them. I remember getting my credit card bills in the mail and throwing them in the trash straight away because I couldn’t bear to look at them. That went on for months at a time. I was ashamed of myself, I had lost all Hope, labelled myself as a failure, and hid from the world. Soon after I declared bankruptcy, quit my job and moved back in with my mother. Right after that my girlfriend left me, and if I hadn’t already given up, I certainly did at that point. If it weren’t for my friends picking me up every morning and taking care of me for the next year, I most certainly wouldn’t have survived that year.
Eventually, something clicked. I decided that I wasn’t going to die at 24 years olds, and that if I was going to continue living life, I was going to do my best to at least make it enjoyable. My Hope returned to me, and with it, I went and found new work, and started over, fuelled by my wish for a better tomorrow. Getting my life back was entirely because of Hope, without it, I wouldn’t be here, and I’m sure a lot of others wouldn’t be either.
So how about now, all these years later? I lost another job in the meantime, but I didn’t despair, I went and found a new one the next day. At that point I believe I admirably demonstrated this Virtue.
Today as I write this, I’m feeling stuck, like the rat on the wheel or Sisyphus eternally rolling the boulder up the hill. I realize that I need to do something to break the cycle, I need to make a move or a change. The difference this time is that I know that I am capable of making things happen, and I have a clearer vision of the future I want to create for myself. So you could say that I have Hope, this time around, and have the state of mind that will allow me to act on that.
So I suppose in conclusion, at this point, I embody this Virtue in a satisfactory manner.