How hope in the future will destroy the world

When I buy a new bottle of shampoo it seems like the hardest thing in the world to continue with the current one until it’s gone before trying out the new.  Sure, I’ll finish it sometime, but just not this time.  Same with bottles of mayonnaise or tomato sauce.  And tins of interesting tea, especially when there’s another one at the shop which I haven’t tried.  (Chocolate, chips, and beer seem to be exempt for some reason.)  Even while watching an episode of a TV series I enjoy, I’ve caught myself thinking how much better it would be to see the next one.  How much I was looking forward to it.  Hoping for the time it when I could.  While watching this one.  New over current, next over now, the greener, greener grass.  And every single iPhone release that ever was.

assistants_and_george_frederic_watts_-_hope_-_google_art_project
“Hope”, GF Watts

Why bother to write this post?  Because we all suffer from it to some extent, and – no jokes – I think it probably will be the end of the world.  Dramatic much?

Robert Louis Stevenson said that “to travel hopefully is a better thing than to arrive” [Virginibus Puerisque, 1881].  I think he’s right.  And I think he’s wrong.  I think that the process of journeying hopefully is vital and transformative.  Read this post if you haven’t already.  The process, to me, is the hope part.  The idea that we’re going somewhere better, of travelling onwards and upwards, of movement and of change is itself the life-giving part.  But, at the same time there’s a catch: the instant you realise that the journey is better, what hope can there be of arriving at the destination?  What are you then hoping for, moving towards, changing into?  Or is that the problem, that we’re hoping for rather than just hoping?  Maybe, borrowing wisdom from an anti-alcohol abuse campaign, “It’s not the hoping, it’s how we’re hoping”.  Perhaps “hope abuse” is just as pervasive and persuasive, as comforting and clouding-to-judgement as alcohol.

My grandma told me once that it was my moral duty to have children to pass on my “good brain”.  There are three flaws with this.  First of all, if there was any kind of moral duty regarding having children, I think it’s against procreation rather than for it, and recent research agrees.

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Secondly, as explained in an earlier post, I don’t think that there can be any kind of moral obligation associated with talent; and finally, the argument simply doesn’t make sense.  The hope that your kids will have the same talents and they will choose to use them is simply passing the buck to the next generation.  Would anyone place a bet where the winning outcome is simply getting your stake money back?  Nope.  Where the chance was how much you’d lose not how much you’d win?  Nope.  You’d keep your cash in your pocket.

Again it’s the old bugbear of new versus current.  We prefer the potential of new humans to the responsibilities of the ones already here.  It’s easier to go to a working bee at someone else’s house than it is to mow your own lawn.  We’d rather spend billions investigating colonisation of Mars rather than take care of our Earth.

And that, dear reader, will probably wipe us out.  Our lust for the new, our abuse of hope, has gone beyond viral, beyond global; we’re bent on infecting the universe.

I know it’s not newsworthy, but we already have a planet.  And it already has water, and oxygen, and plants, and food, and people.  I’m not saying we should forgo hope, or progress, or change, I just wonder what would happen if directed it more wisely?  What if we stopped treating the planet like it could be upgraded and the old one thrown away?

What if – having now been diagnosed with HAV (Hope Abuse Virus) – we began a programme of treatment and rehabilitation?  What if we could train our hope with a fitness regime of appreciation, guardianship, care and repair of the current?  What if, having recognised its transformative power, we took care to point the hope-canon in a positive, truly life-giving direction?  And while I don’t know what direction(s) that should be, I reckon it’s probably not the next iPhone.

[cover image “Hope”, GF Watts]

 

 

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