‘Abandon hope, all ye who enter here’. These words, which
represent the most profound desolation of the human spirit, are
inscribed on the entrance of the Seventh Circle of Dante’s Inferno.
Today, in the face of the second, and more devastating attack of the
coronavirus, Dante’s fateful pronouncement seems only too apt for
It is indeed as though the virus has established a veritable Inferno, a
virtual hell, on Earth. And perhaps the single most grievous victim of its relentless onslaught is hope.
Even as much as our body needs oxygen to survive, the human spirit
needs the oxygen of hope to live. And that intangible oxygen of hope is possibly even scarcer and more difficult to find than medical O2.
Why is hope so essential to our being? Hope is the horizon of the
future. When we are in danger of losing hope, we are in jeopardy of
losing the beckoning horizon of the future, with its promise of
Things so bad at work that you fear being pink-slipped? Maybe it’ll all be better in time; let’s hope so. Domestic problems and tensions at home? In a while it’ll get sorted out, hopefully.
Without the hope of a better future to help pull us through a bad
patch, like a tow truck pulls a stalled car, we’d be left stranded in an
inescapable and present imperfect.
The pandemic has hijacked our future and left us stranded in the
prison of a present from which there seems to be no exit, or hope of
exit. So what can we do about trying to reclaim our future, our hope?
The first step would be to recognise the evil sibling of hope called
Like a Bollywood movie in which twins get separated at birth and one becomes a cop and the other a villain, hope and despair are the
deadliest of foes, all the more so as they are the two sides of the
While hope urges you forward, encouraging like a trainer to an
exhausted long-distance runner to go on, despair whispers in the
inner ear of your heart: You know there’s no point, so why don’t you
just give up, and let it all go?
Can the cop triumph over the villain? Yes, but not without our help.
Hope is not a massage session in a spa, where you can lie back and
relax and let others do the job of working on you. Hope is a hard
workout, a rigorous training programme that you have to stick to,
despite the seductive inducements of despair to spare yourself the
effort, because no good will come of it anyway.
All these metaphors, cop, villain, training programmes are all very
well. But, dash it all, how about some practical advice, something I
can do in the hope of acquiring hope.
Well, that’s the first step. That you want to discover – or, rather,
uncover — hope within yourself.
One of the most inspiring, non-religious testaments to a successful
quest for hope is the psychological doctrine of logotherapy, logo
being the Greek for reason, or meaning.
Logotherapy is bedrocked on the premise that the basis of all human
life lies in the search for meaning: We live because we want to know
why we live.
Logotherapy was developed by psychologist Viktor Frankl in response to the unspeakable horrors of a Nazi death camp in which he was held captive during the Holocaust.
He survived unimaginable horrors, and in the crucible of suffering he came to the realisation that the human spirit is such that it can endure anything if given a reason, any reason, to do so: Find a reason ‘why’ to live and the ‘how’ will follow.
The ‘why’ to live can be love of an individual, or of an idea, or of a
project you want to accomplish.
Find within yourself the ‘why’, and the ‘how’ will find itself. The ‘why’ you find is called hope. And the ‘how’ which finds itself is the defeat of despair.
Views expressed above are the author’s own.
END OF ARTICLE