Crafting Gentleness

Wednesday, January 03, 2007

The Importance of grounding understandings of hope in the actualities of everyday life

"Many traditional accounts [of hope] rightly emphasize hope's power to sustain us. When they ground this sustaining power in something unconditioned or absolute (and so beyond human agency), however, they undermine our active engagement in the life of hope. Theological accounts often (though not always) err in this way, rooting hope in God's absolute power so that we become mere bystanders or observers to this vital activity of human life. For instance, a colleague once told me that unless hope is grounded in the unconditioned, it is susceptible to the vagaries of finite conditioned existence that plague every other human activity. Hope, my colleague argued, needs to be able to live and survive in the darkest corners, at the darkest times. It needs to be that one indestructible resource which remains when all others are gone. Unless this is so, hope cannot sustain us. (Such a view shows the influence of the story of Pandora, who, upon removing the lid of the jar of gifts given by the gods, found that only hope remained.) Hope does need to sustain us, but insisting that it be able to do so in every possible situation is to drain it of actual connections with actual states of affairs. A hope whose realization can only or primarily be affected through an unconditioned supernatural agency leaves us with nothing to do but await its arrival." Patrick Shade, Habits of Hope (2001)


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