The Structure of Human Hope
There are many philosophies of the future, many perspectives on how society progresses, and many thoughts on what gives us hope.
It seems by now to have been well-established that humans need hope in order to survive. When hope fails, people die shortly thereafter. Unfortunately, many of the philosophies that have flourished in the last 100 years have seemed intent on offering nothing but despair.
There are good reasons for that, and many of these philosophies are based on a straight-forward reading of science. Alternative philosophies offer us hope - but only through the expensive move of escapism, leaving us feeling like our efforts in the world are pointless.
Frankly, I don’t have the space to deal with these issues. Instead, I want to offer what I see as the only viewpoint that is capable of giving us hope and confidence, and simultaneously keeping us engaged with the world. That viewpoint will allow us to engage in a radical way, speaking prophetically to corruption and oppression, never once giving in to despair.
First, we must view the world and the universe as deeply good - as filled with wonder and glory. We must view ourselves as intimately connected with everyone on earth. We must see ourselves as interconnected and intertwined in society as a whole. This will allow us to empathize, to understand, and to approach issues systemically, rather than through finger-pointing.
At the same time, we will not minimize the issues there are. Many people and institutions live in complete denial of the reality they find themselves in. As such, they oppress others, they shrug off responsibility, they destroy people’s lives and efforts.
And this brings us to the main dynamic: there is a reality that WILL persist, regardless of what currently stands against it. The reality of unity, of empathy, of equality, will ultimately and always prevail. And since this is so, we can confidently stand against forces of oppression and injustice, knowing that their time is short.
This is not blind optimism, leading to laziness. The downfall of oppression will happen through our efforts, not independent of real-world work. But this also does not rely entirely on our own abilities. As we work to resist oppression, to undo the forces of violence, we have a powerful weapon on our side…and that weapon is reality. Because we are working to bring the world in to conformity to the glorious reality the lies beneath it, we can and should expect amazing and miraculous things to happen. It is as if we are chipping away at a block of ice, until we suddenly find an avalanche breaking free, spontaneously multiplying our efforts thousands upon thousands of times.
We can see that the world is good, that reality is wondrous, that oppression is real, that our work matters, that we are not alone in our efforts, and that change and justice will come.
But it is also important to realize something else. The setting-to-right of an issue in the world does not bring about the end of our work. There is no utopia. There is only ever-increasing growth and realization, as each achievement and victory brings us to higher and higher planes.
We should be glad for this. If utopia was achieved, we would soon settle into complacency, and then turn again to despair. But if there was no movement and no progress, we would have little hope or inspiration, and would again be left with only despair. Only perpetual movement and progress can give us meaning.
Again, this progress is not straight and uniform. There are abrupt changes, hurdles to overcome, and dramatic reversals. But we can know that our work is building, that the things we do today truly change the world, and that the results of our efforts will last forever.
Which brings us to the big-picture view. Eschatology often presents us with one, final end, in which utopia is achieved. But for the reasons given above, this view is not realistic. If we achieved a utopian heaven, we would soon despair of doing nothing, and our heaven would become a hell. In any view of the future, we must look for an ever-growing, ever-changing existence - or existence becomes meaningless.
So I believe in this: Society must continually grow and progress, upwards to infinity. So must each individual. Time is infinite. Growth is infinite. And together, as societies and individuals, we will grow upwards and outwards into the infinite fullness of reality.
This, alone, seems to me a real basis of human hope.