On Wisdom: Principles: Hope

Music: Passacaglia and Fugue in C minor.
By J.S. Bach. Sequenced by George Pollen.

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Copyright by
Nicholas Gordon

1. Since consciousness cannot imagine its own demise, we live in eternity even as we recognize that time bears us swiftly towards death.

2. This moment-to-moment sense of endless possibility is the basis for hope.

3. From time to time, of course, the fabric of hope is torn and we see the blackness beyond. But in time the rent is repaired, and we return, however shaken, to a life of purpose and meaning in which the future, whether before or after death, retains its eternal promise.

4. Hope is not faith but the breath that propels faith up through the larynx to where it may be shaped by the tongue.

5. There are many faiths--in social progress, for example, or in the power of reason or prayer or love, or in the extension of one's existence through tomorrow or beyond death--but one common source, which is hope.

6. Certainty is the end of hope, both in the sense of goal and, paradoxically, in the sense of demise. For if one were certain that all that lay between one and death were unbearable pain, and that death were an absolute end, there would be nothing to hope for, and one would no longer wish to live. Similarly, if one were certain of one's own personal salvation, one would no longer hope to be saved, any more than one who was tall would hope to be tall, or one who had three children would hope to have three children.

7. A faith, then, that retains its connection to the hope that produced it must also embrace doubt, acknowledging that it is not certain, that it is faith and not knowledge. Otherwise it will be cut off from its source of energy and become rigid and lifeless.

8. Since hope comes from a contradictory vision common to all, all cannot help but hope, though to a greater or lesser degree. In fact, if one were honest one could deny neither hope nor despair, and would have to live accordingly.

9. Faith therefore should be seen not as wishful thinking but as wishful living, something all humans do, though the content of their faith may vary.

Next: The Principles of Wisdom: Imagination
Previous: The Principles of Wisdom: Freedom

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