A Lesson of Hope in the Corona Moment of Humanity

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Many times we suffer innocently. Life is not always fair to us. We know of several innocent people who lose their precious lives to natural calamities, accidents, wars, and human wickedness. The corona moment has subjected humanity to innocent suffering and death. This Easter, being under lockdown most Christians joined these innocent victims while reflecting on the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. As Easter arrived, I thought of watching a movie in the afternoon. Checked some reviews for classics and found that the 1994 movie, the Shawshank Redemption was attractive. So I decided to watch the same on YouTube.

It was about a man, Andy Dufresne, a successful banker who was innocent but charged with murder of his wife and her lover and sentenced to life in Shawshank prison. This movie has several layers of meanings. It is clearly a critique of American/any prison system. One could also trace a philosophy of hope animating the hero. Most movies portray prisoners as violent rogues and use them to bring masculine brutality on the scene. But this movie was different. It humanised the prisoners. They are characterised as men next door like most of us. The guards and prison authorities/ warden appear violent and unruly. But there is one stereotype of Hollywood that we can still find in it. It is regarding the gay effeminate man. It portrays these men as violent rapists. The funniest thing about the movie is that an honest man from the society comes to the prison and becomes a crook as he doubles up as a financial advisor to the prison authorities and ultimately manages a great escape.

As the innocent prisoner enters the prison, he finds that his whole life blown away in a blink of an eye. Nothing is left but he has all the time in the world to think about it. It is difficult to belong to prison. It unhomes anyone. Prison life consists of routine and more routine until it bores one’s down. But hope can keep one going. Being a banker by profession, he offers to advise a prison guard and the prison warden for a few icy cold beers that he shares with his friends in the prison. Hope also is visible in his persistence with his writing letters to district library authorities for books for the prisoners who responded after a long time with a charitable distribution of used books. Something that had never happened in the history of that prison, Andy is able to put together a small library. As time went by the prison had a very good library.

The movie has an interesting scene. His attempt to escape into classical music costs him two weeks of isolation from the prison community. He stayed in what they called a hole. On his arrival from the hole, he says he survived because he had Beethoven for the company in his mind and heart. It is at this time the movie set up a debate over hope. His closest friend, Red, declares that hope is a dangerous thing. He holds that it can run a man insane. Red seems to be following the stoics of the ancient Greeks. He was skeptical about the place of hope in human life. Prison time is a slow time. You have no one but your thoughts and your company. One becomes edgy as time begins to roll out like a blade. It is hard at times. His friend tells that there is no time for his pipe dreams. But Andy, the innocent hero, had other ideas. He was planning a great escape. He tunnelled through the walls and escaped his way to freedom. It was his hope that propelled him to freedom. Hope has power. Red would describe him saying ,’ some birds are not meant to be caged. Their feathers are just too bright.’ Andy cherished his hope and arrived at the freedom of his dreams. Before that, He left a letter to his friend, Red, hidden into a watch with a hope that it will find him one day. The note articulated another hope that wished to his friend again. And finally, when Red gets his rightful freedom, he takes a journey of hope. Now he too believes in hope. He hopes to meet his friend Andy.

Life today offers us only two choices: to get busy living or to get busy dying. We learn to live by hope. We need hope to pass over this corona threat to humanity. Hope gives us the power to overcome tumultuous uncertainty. We hope to cross the border imposed on us by covid-19. Disaster does not necessarily take away human hope. The question still remains. What may we hope under circumstances of death and destruction? Hope never really dies. We can endure every catastrophe on the wings of hope. Hope and fear sometimes operate together. Fear and hope make us opt for insurance, venture into new business and even gamble over things or money. The fear of covid-19 exists along with hope for a covid-19 free world. Loss of hope brings despair, depression, and suicide. Hope is the only road that will drive us to our ultimate victory over covid-19. We have to nurture our hope and assist everyone to do the same.

Hope enables us to shape our destiny. It is not a waste of time to invest in hope. Hope is not cruel. It is not absurd. Hope makes us dare to find a way in darkness. We are enabled to take risks in the power of hope. It is not an idle fantasy. It has great motivating power. Adversity can be overcome by hope. Therefore, it is not foolish to hope. Hope illuminates new possibilities of being in the world. Without hope, humans may not be creative. Hope can make us dream. It assists us to mentally image the scenario we hope for. Hope leads to human transcendence. Hope anticipates the future utopian otherness. Covid-19 crisis teaches us these important lessons of hope. This is why let us continue to hope for the ultimate victory of humanity over covid-19. But most of all let us ignite the hope of those among us who are on the verge of losing it. Let us learn these lessons of hope for the rest of our life. Let us watch this movie and take its lessons into the post-covid-19 world.

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Hypocrisy is the tribute that vice pays to virtue.

- Fr Victor Ferrao