Hope, according to Merriam-Webster, is to cherish a desire with anticipation: to want something to happen or be true. It is an optimistic state of mind that is based on an expectation of positive outcomes with respect to events and circumstances in one’s life or the world at large.
Hope to me is the catalyst that propels one forward to expect the unexpected with confidence. It makes the difference when one is in despair and when one is faced with the impossible. Never have I dwelled on the meaning of hope as much as I have currently, whilst at Yale where I am doing a leadership program as a World Fellow.
My colleague Elpida Rouka, whose name means hope in her native Greek, gave us each a little pendant which symbolises the word and is visualised as a heart, created by one wave on the right that turns into an angel wing on left. The imagery is powerful and evocative. This pendant, hope, is in memory of Elpida’s Smyrna-born grandmother who is her namesake and was a refugee as a young infant. The journey she undertook as an International Displaced Person at 22 days of age, was a life threatening one, yet she survived against all odds and is the symbol of hope and inspiration for all, especially her grand-daughter who is going through a difficult period in her personal life.
As I hiked to the East Rock Park in New Haven recently, I came across a monument in memory of Soldiers and Sailors – The Angel of Peace who is a symbol of peace, harmony and hope. At the Yale Centre of British Art, there is a painting of “Hope” by George Fredrick Watts, where she is pictured sitting on a globe wearing a blindfold. Watt’s Hope was the subject of a sermon by the Reverend Wright which further inspired President Barack Obama and prompted the title of his book “The Audacity of Hope”.
All of us need a symbol for hope in our lives. Life is never perfect. Each of us has our moments of ups and downs, periods of crises and successes. It is when we go through the low periods in our lives that we question our very being and can withdraw from the rest of the world. Many of us isolate ourselves, believing our suffering or situation is unique, and these feelings can be made worse by social media. This feeling of isolation can make us feel helpless and powerless. Such feelings can quickly spiral us into a depression and worse, if not controlled can lead to worse reactions like addictions and even suicide.
It is when we go through the low periods in our lives that we question our very being and can withdraw from the rest of the world.
At the same time, the world is going through a major crisis. There are several right-wing governments in power inciting bigotry, hatred and individualism. There is genocide taking place in Myanmar and Syria. There are millions of refugees and displaced persons in different parts of the world, fleeing inequality and discriminatory systems. With their lives at stake they are trying to find refuge in other parts of the world but are met with hostility and indifference by people who do not want to upset the status quo. Due to limited resources, growing unemployment, rising costs and constant uncertainty, few ordinary citizens want to take the risk of being inclusive. In such a context, our individual struggles are also magnified and can bog us down. It ends up being a chicken and egg situation where we end up electing governments that pander to the thought of “us” and excludes the “other”.
In such a tension filled world, we need symbols of hope more than ever before. We can use them as a beacon of light to show us the path ahead.
In such a tension filled world, we need symbols of hope more than ever before. We can use them as a beacon of light to show us the path ahead. These symbols could be a person, an object or even an event. If we look around, we will see the many symbols of hope. I take inspiration from nature. After a bitter cold winter, there is always spring. The beauty of a flower and the joyfulness of its colour can immediately perk up one’s mood. A walk in the woods is uplifting and the sound of rain is soothing. A rainbow can brighten up your day like nothing else can.
Truly, if we look around and are open to it, we will find many more signs and symbols of Hope. We are not alone in this interconnected world.
Views expressed are the author’s own.
Pic credits: Higher Density Blog