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I hope this missive finds you well. But the sad reality is, you are not well. You will not be well. Things will not get better. It is futile being optimistic, pointless being positive. You are a bonehead if you hope. “Hope is nothing but the paint on the face of Existence and the least touch of truth rubs it off.” So says Byron. Listen to him.
But hope saves me from despair, you argue. It gives me confidence, reassurance, pluck.
And what of that? What good is confidence, reassurance, pluck? They are just futile feelings. Completely without effect. Can pluck stop an asteroid from hurtling toward you? Can reassurance right a wrong? Can confidence curry favor with a wrathful opponent? Can hope change an outcome, give you strength, confer control, have any bearing whatsoever on efficacy? Does hope endow you with the power to reconfigure your life?
No. Work does that. Effort does that. Action and ability do that. An alliance with the cold, hard facts of the world does that. Not hope. Commonsensicality should supplant these mutton-headed notions of hope of yours–yes, commonsensicality is a word. A fine word. And one that has nothing to do with hope.
Benjamin Franklin agrees with me: “He that lives upon hope will die fasting.”
Yet hopelessness continues to be associated with all that is negative. It is considered a fault, a failing, a weakness. Poor thing: she lost all hope. He’s hopeless! In despair! “Abandon hope all ye who enter here.” The loss of hope is Hell.
But is it a fault to be realistic? Is it a failing to banish the feather-brained notion that a dreadful situation will change for the better? Is it a defect to confront a circumstance head-on and take it for what it is, however distressing? Is it a weakness to acknowledge that you have been defrauded by hope, time and time again? And again? Is it self-defeating to say: this is it, and it will not get any better?
It’s 1610. The Hudson Bay. Henry Hudson is set adrift in a tiny open boat by his mutinous crew. Ice in the water. Scant provisions. He is never seen again. Did he have hope? Did it help?
Hope is strong, I grant you that. It has supreme power over your mind. You never reach the end of your rope with hope, even if you reach the end of your rope with everything else. What is that Italian proverb? “Hope is the last thing ever lost.”
Mary Queen of Scots had hope, even as her head was placed on the block. “I forgive you with all my heart,” she said to her executioner, a Mr. Bull, “for now, I hope, you shall make an end of all my troubles.”
What think you? Is hope a need, or not?
I hope I have not caused you to squirm.
I do hope this finds you well.
Hope to hear from you soon…
Jeanne Farewell’s most recent novel is Wilderhall, a National Indie Excellence Award Finalist. Farewell is the author of six novels and a short story collection. Her essays, book reviews, and stories have been published in a variety of literary magazines and journals, among them World Literature Today, The Manhattanville Review, Potomac Review, The MacGuffin, Art Times, Byline, Balanced Rock, Whetstone, Pennsylvania Literary Journal, London's First Knight, and Flashes of Brilliance. Online publications include essays on nineteenth-century topics in the Victorian Web. Farewell is a classical pianist who has performed in the U.S., Europe, U.K., and China. She gives lecture-recitals about music and its association with art and literature.