Thinking Hope

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Hope has become difficult. In an age of hate, intolerance, violence and pandemic, we are challenged to hope against hope. What hope for life is thereafter devastating death and tragic destruction? It has become difficult to hope in a world marked by greed where everything is heavily loaded to enrich the rich and the powerful. It is difficult to hope in a world marked by increasing ecocide, racism, casteism and all other kinds of inequalities. It is indeed difficult to hope in democracy where democracy is dying in its functioning being poisoned to its roots and branches by money and power. It has also become difficult to hope in a judiciary that seems to be nominating its judges by the colours of their ideology. We do have thousands of reason to give up hope. We may have sufficient reasons to do it. But we must still Hope.

There is power in hope when the situation is hopeless. When we are pushed to the point of hoping against hope (Rom. 4:18), we arrive at the impossible. Where there is impossible, there is God. This is why we have to dare to think hope. We need faith to do this thinking and we have to love thinking and its fruits. People do hope against hope. Hope is lived experience. It works in practice. In this reflection, I propose to try to understand how it works in theory so that our practice becomes even more forcefully hopeful and we can dare to think and dare to hope.

This hope challenges us to surpass the principle of sufficient reason of Leibniz. But this principle constricts our hope. To open a space for hope, to bring hope for hope, we need what may be called the principle of insufficient reason. We need to accept the limits of reason and thus look beyond the world that keys of reason have opened for us. It is the principle of insufficient reason that gives hope for hope. In fact, the principle of sufficient reason works like Occam’s razor and constricts our thinking as well as our hoping. This is why we have to dare to think and dare to hope. There is never the last word on hope. We can hope against hope. The very condition that enables us to hope against hope makes hope impossible. When we live only with the possible, we think that hope has limits and we despair. Hope as impossible brings hope when it is just becoming hopeless. Hope therefore is the way of the cross that sees the light of the resurrection.

We do not need sufficient reason to hope. Hope therefore does not belong to the world of reason. It belongs to the logic that transcends it. It borders on madness. Hope gives us a why to live. This why of hope is beyond reason. This hope is not strategic or one that belongs to the market. It is not one that takes up short term pain with the hope of a long term gain. Hope is in some way is love. It is also faith. It is the grace of a gift. This kind of hope belongs to love, faith and grace. This hope is dinning with those who sin against reason. It does not need a reason to hope. There is no logic of hope enslaved by reason. There is a/logic of hope. It follows the dynamics of what Derrida calls the impossible.

Derrida does not simply mean a logical impossibility, like “p & not-p.” The possible on Derrida’s terms is what is foreseeable within the present or existing horizon of expectation. It belongs to the future present. The possible is predictable, expectable and therefore we know with certainty and reason how it will arrive. The impossible on other hand belongs to another order. It is unforeseeable. It is one of surprise and unpredictability. The impossible therefore belongs to the absolute future, the one that we cannot see coming. But we prefer to live our life within the safe horizon. This keeps us bound to the possible. Living in with hope against hope is living outside a safe horizon. It challenges us to live in an open horizon that may close on us in uncertain ways. It is living out-of joint or living off-balance. This life that is living out-of joint is a life of hope. It exposes us to what we cannot see coming. This terra incognita does not kill our hope. It lives on the insufficient reason that does not need the light / the bright light of knowledge.

Life of Hope is a creative and optimal disequilibrium. We can use James Joyce’s term chaosmos to hope against hope. Such hope is creative. It can produce a great harvest of thought that can lead to new practices of transformed living. It gives us the courage to shun aside life in the possible that chooses safety first and is risk-averse and smacks of insecure conservatism. Life in the impossible is the life of hope that inspires us to take bold risks. It lives a life of larger hope, of genuine hope, even if one has to face odds one has the courage to face them. It hopes even without having reasons to hope. It is an undying hope. It is the hope in the impossible. It is the hope in the divine promise. Such hope is waiting with confidence in the promise of God which is always in the coming. This is why this hope is affirmative. It affirms the possibility of the impossibility. Human can rise to this hope.

Today more than ever before we need this hope against hope. This hope against hope lives only in the zone of the impossible. Hope is against the hope that is lived only in the possible zone. The hope against hope has an Augustinian restless heart. It is longing for the advent of a resting point in God. It has the dynamism of a pilgrim and is always on the way ever waiting for the coming of God. It is our dream for the final resting point. It is what we hope. It is hope without a why of reason. It is a hoping against hope in the coming of what we cannot see as coming. The impossibility of hope is the condition of its possibility.

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Hypocrisy is the tribute that vice pays to virtue.

- Fr Victor Ferrao