When I chanced upon the title of one of our readings while preparing for orals, I panicked. I had no idea why our reading on the role of reflection was entitled “The Promotion of Responsibility and Hope” because I couldn’t recall talking about hope in class. So I took a few minutes to think, why hope?
“Esperanza” is hope in Spanish. It’s a beautiful word, but what’s even more beautiful is its verb form, “Esperar”, because it is used to signify both “to hope” and “to wait”. If it wasn’t for the Spanish language, I never would have connected the two. I realized: we hope when we wait. (And I won’t dwell on this, but we wait because we hope.)
Hoping is prompted by being stuck, whether somewhere physically or situationally. We hope traffic will go away when we’re stuck in it. We hope for a loved one to come back when we’re stuck in our past with them. We hope for clarity when we’re stuck in the gray areas of our lives. If we are hoping for something, it’s because we’re stuck in something that isn’t it, and we’re waiting to get there. We hope when we wait.
In “The Promotion of Responsibility and Hope”, Sir Leo talks about being stuck in a “prospective society”, always calculating, and always predicting. The role of reflection here is to bring out hope as a new perspective. If being stuck is finding yourself in a hole you can’t climb out of, hope is gazing upwards, rather than surveying your limited surroundings by the default of your anatomy. And if we are stuck in a prospective society, hope is thinking beyond our selfish and always forward-driven thoughts, rather than remaining stuck in them by the default of our nature and the programming of our lives. By reflecting we know that there is greatness lying beyond what we see by default. Hoping, in reflecting, does not pull us out of where we are stuck, but it lets us know that we’re in something we can get out of. Reflection, like hope, is transcendence. -Transcendence headed towards where we want to be.
The most valuable insight I got from David Foster Wallace’s “This is Water” is that the first step to being liberated is knowing what we want to be liberated from, and knowing that it is possible: that being stuck is not the only option. In the text he focused on being stuck in our self-centered “default settings”, and how liberal arts could help us out of these. It’s something I heard in a Bobby Guev lecture as well. Sometimes we unknowingly choose to be stuck, because we can’t imagine anything else. Not reflecting, not imagining, and thus not hoping, can be deadly. What if we never live as great as we are meant to or are capable of, because we could not think it in the first place? It’s not deadly because we would die, but would we be living if we never learn to break out of the monotonous and heartless default?
There’s this quote I have pinned on my cork board, from Paper Towns by John Green: “Maybe by imagining these futures we can make them real, and maybe not, but either way we must imagine them.” Sometimes I take note of quotes when I don’t understand them, and what I couldn’t perfectly grasp about this quote a few years back when I read the book was how we could make things real by imagining them. I suppose imagining makes things real because that is the first step. We know that there are changes we can make by living our lives, as capable human beings. It’s the creativity of human action Sir Leo wrote about in “Interpreting the Story of My Life.” Imagining things makes them real in our minds, and it gives us a sense of direction in living, in chase of the possibility that what is in our minds, we may one day find before our eyes.
See, hoping and waiting is not necessarily inactivity. Perhaps sometimes when we’re hoping and waiting, like when we’re stuck in traffic, and when we’re not with whom we want to be with, it only feels like we’re doing nothing because we aren’t doing exactly what we want to be doing. It’s frustrating, but I realize that all these moments we’d rather not be in are the moments taking us to where we want to be. –But only so if we reflect, imagine, and hope.
We hope to liberate ourselves from what we are made to think is all that is real. We hope for more than this. We hope to make things real.