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Hope Versus Despair

August 24, 2010

There seems to be a lot of confusion and misunderstandings among people regarding what hope and despair are, and even about the relationship between them. When defining anything, I’ve found that it’s crucially important to prioritize causality in the analysis, as something is best defined by these three things: Its origins, its character (the characteristics it projects), and the consequences of its existence; more simply, something’s definition can be best determined by cause, effect, and character.

In the case of Hope and Despair, people seem to be content with defining these two ideas by the character that they project, and fail to understand the underlying causes of that character; even worse, they fail to understand the consequences that the existence of Hope and Despair result in. This post will thus focus on helping the reader understand these things.

Hope: Most people tend to see hope as a good thing. It gives people the strength to press forward in life, gives people a reason to live and to die for, and it provides meaning in life; in fact, it is usually the primary thing that makes life worth living.

This sounds very touching, but to understand why that hope is such a powerful source of positivism in this world, we must understand the source (cause) of hope, which (evolutionarily speaking) is the “fight” instinct. To better understand this, I’ll provide the most simplistic decision-making scenario: Live or Die!

If you fight, you will live!

If you do not fight, you will die!

In this scenario, Hope is the force that causes people to fight, and Despair is what causes people to not fight (Give up). Because hope is a means for survival, and despair is essentially passive suicide, hope has come to be associated with “Life”, whereas despair is associated with “Death”.

Despair: As stated above, despair is the feeling of “giving up”, and so is associated with Death. The instinctual basis for despair is best exemplified by the Freudian “Death Instinct”, should you wish to read about it in greater depth. Despair is usually only felt when one has decided that one cannot win (has no chance at winning); essentially Despair is a defense mechanism in which a person gives up, essentially to be “put out of one’s misery.”

Humanity has a built-in tendency to favor life over death, regardless of the consequences; it is for this reason that the relationship between hope and despair are misunderstood. To clear up these misunderstandings, one important factor needs to be accounted for:

There is a price for everything!

As I noted in my most “Sinful Nature”, the price of life is suffering; even God himself is not exempt from this law. In regards to the relationship between Sin, Suffering, and Existence: Sin is the product of the creation of the world and humanity; Suffering is the consequence of Sin; Existence is is the source of Sin, and by extension all suffering. Because our very existence is sinful, the inevitable consequence of existence is suffering. In summary, the price of life is suffering!

So then, it would seem that hope is not all that good; because hope compels us to live, hope compels us to suffer.

Most of the suffering in the world would in fact not exist if no one hoped, and everyone despaired:

Rapists would not fulfill their urgings, because he would have no hope of being pleasured, or of getting away with it.

There would be no war in the world, because there would be no hope of winning.

There would be no religious crusades or terrorists, because they would have no hope of their causes being justified, and no hope of going to heaven.

There would be no manipulation or greed in the world, because there would be no hope of being satisfied by riches.

There would be no rage or violence in the world, because nothing in the world would be important enough to get angry about, and any hope of ones actions being justified would be nonexistent.

Like this, all of the suffering in the world would cease to be without hope. Hope may not be the cause of all suffering, but as the primary perpetuator of what is the cause of suffering (life), hoping in anything can only increase suffering, and ironically, death.

“For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Jesus Christ our Lord”– what an ironic Bible verse this is! It would appear that even Paul himself did not know what hope and despair really are!

But it should be noted that there is a third option to the previously exemplified “life/death scenario”: running away.

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