Hope

Dear Pogue,

So it happened. After numerous false starts and months of preparation I am finally in my new home! Cardboard box city or what at this moment! But I’ve found the box with my winter jumpers in, so I’m finally equipped to face the day. 1C outside on this fine winter day. Life is beginning to shine once more.

As you know I believe that there are lesson to learn at every stage of life, through both the good and the bad. Over these last few months I think I’ve learned a lot about myself and about life, especially life that doesn’t run as expected or perhaps better, doesn’t do as hoped for.

There’s a verse in the Bible that says:

Hope deferred makes the heart sick but a dream fulfilled is a tree of life.

Proverbs 13:12

Recently it has been hope itself that I’ve been learning about. Hope, a fundamental tenant of life, so much so that we do not realise how much it plays a part in our everyday activities. That is, until it is not there and then a yawning cavern appears. Will Smith in his recently published autobiography comments:

Hope sustains life. Hope is the elixir of survival during our darkest times. The ability to envision and imagine a brighter day gives meaning to our suffering and renders it bearable. When we lose hope we lose our central source of strength and resilience.

Will Smith, Will

So why has hope been so prevalent in the last few months? Well it has been a sustaining force as delays and disappointments reared up. It has been the enabler which has allowed me to say “Ok” when another delay was announced and fill the newly created schedule with profitable activity that in turn allows for a healthy mental state. But, as I wrote a few weeks back, my mental state has gradually become a little fragile so if I work my way back up the chain will I find that my hope has diminished? The answer is ‘Yes’ it has been eroded by a long series of disappointments and unfulfilled commitments. To cut to the quick, there came a point when I began to want to pack my bags and go home, except, yes, I didn’t have a home.

Let me say straight out, there’s been an immense amount of grace and goodwill coming my way from family who made they home’s available for periods far longer than they imagined (and I can’t imagine anyone would want me in their home as long as some allowed). There is still some love in the universe.

You know there is a way to sustain hope and there is a way to drive it onto the rocks. How do we sustain hope? Let me tell you about the Stockdale Paradox which I’m going to guess you are not familiar with? No? Good, well I had to do something clever today, Pogue, didn’t I?

Jim Stockdale was a US Navy admiral and became the highest ranked US officer to be capture and held in the notorious ‘Hanoi Hilton’ prisoner of war camp during the Vietnam war. His incarceration was to last 8 years until 1973 during which time he was deprived of even the most basic of human rights and tortured on repeated occasions. But in all of that time he never gave up on hope and remained committed in his thoughts to the final outcome, that he would get out. Many of his fellow inmates did not live to get out having given up hope, even many who’s imprisonment was considerably shorter.

Why weren’t they able to sustain the hope that “gives meaning to our suffering and renders it bearable”? Because they were optimists. In discussion with the author of Good to Great, Jim Collins, Stockdale explains that the optimists were the ones who said:

‘We’re going to be out by Christmas.’ And Christmas would come, and Christmas would go. Then they’d say, ‘We’re going to be out by Easter.’ And Easter would come, and Easter would go. And then Thanksgiving, and then it would be Christmas again. And they died of a broken heart.”

Stockdale’s conclusion is that whilst hope must be maintained there has to be discipline that confronts the situation that is faced, however unpleasant and disagreeable that may be. Avoid false hope as whatever it promises, however uplifting the vision may appear in the moment, it will inevitably crumble. Rather build hope around reality, however stark. It may only be a small hope but it will not be false.

There you are. Maybe as time slipped by I committed to a hope that wasn’t coloured with the reality I was confronting. A dream. Don’t get me wrong, dreams are good and we all need to be dreamers and have goals and ambitions that stem from our dreams but we mustn’t use them as a means of denial as to the current reality we face. Dream of a better day but understand what lies between you and the realisation of that dream. Imagine the realisation of the dream lays on the other side of a wide river. By all means look over and be encouraged. Stand on the river bank and peer across. But always be mindful of the river that lays between you and the hoped for future. Then set about overcoming the obstacle and build this into the dream. You need a bridge? How long will it take to build? Where will the wood come from? Factor these things in whilst maintaining a focus on the far bank. Temper the dream with a little reality but do keep the dream.

I know many who dream ‘big’ dreams but the dreams are ‘out there’, beyond reality, great to look at and imagine, but currently unreachable and a possible source of great frustration if not handled mindfully.

Dreams reveal the promise land, reality establishes the journey and hope, hope which if used correctly sustains us as we travel.

Pogue, always be a dreamer and may all your journeys be marked out by hope.

Yours, finally having crossed the river,

Wic

One thought on “Hope

  1. Woo Hoo on finally being in your new place. Hope is better than dreaming when it’s place in the one who is the creator of hope. So many today are hoping that life goes back to 2 year ago normal. If our hope is place in the wrong place or wrong person disappointment is sure to follow. At my age, I am usually just hoping to get through the day without falling. Have fun putting things away till there is no more boxes.

    Liked by 1 person

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