Hope is a strange little thing. It may not seem much in itself, but it makes everything else taste better. Like salt in the right quantities, its absence is noticed, but its presence is not.
Some people receive their hope with wine and bread on Sunday mornings. Others replace meat in their diet with hope on Tuesdays and Fridays. Some go without eating for a month to be able to taste it. And some, thinking that they are different, look inwards for hope, and finding none, they just have what everyone else is eating.
A former boss told me at my farewell, “You always need something to look forward to. It is the secret of being happy.”
I think this is true. If I am looking forward to a trip on the weekend, no matter how bad my day at work is today, it is not going affect me that much. Take kids and Santa Claus: kids are happier on Christmas Eve thinking about the presents that they are going to get, than on Christmas Morning when they have opened their presents. (Of course, maybe that is because they were hoping for a Playstation and received the Encyclopaedia Brittanica instead. Or, maybe my Santa was just weird like that).
On a more continuous level, to be happy everybody needs to feel that things are going to get better, that things are looking up. Optimism has a knock-on effect. A hopeful population has real economic benefits because their positive expectations lead to more investment to more production to more jobs to more money to more consumption expenditure to more demand for goods to even more production, even more jobs, even more money, and on and on and on.
Of course, not everybody sees hope as a desirable thing. In fact, some think of it as the world’s greatest evil. In “Human, All Too Human”, philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche had this to say: “Hope. Pandora brought the jar with the evils and opened it. It was the gods’ gift to man, on the outside a beautiful, enticing gift, called the “lucky jar.” Then all the evils, those lively, winged beings, flew out of it. Since that time, they roam around and do harm to men by day and night. One single evil had not yet slipped out of the jar. As Zeus had wished, Pandora slammed the top down and it remained inside. So now man has the lucky jar in his house forever and thinks the world of the treasure. It is at his service; he reaches for it when he fancies it. For he does not know that that jar which Pandora brought was the jar of evils, and he takes the remaining evil for the greatest worldly good–it is hope, for Zeus did not want man to throw his life away, no matter how much the other evils might torment him, but rather to go on letting himself be tormented anew. To that end, he gives man hope. In truth, it is the most evil of evils because it prolongs man’s torment.”
Clearly, the concept of finding hope in a woman’s box is not new.
Although I find Nietzche’s view interesting philosophically, I think it is practically unhelpful. Some might say that it is reminiscent of a Buddhist viewpoint that would be that hope signals attachment and craving which leads to suffering. I do not know much about that, but what I do believe is that unless you want to become a monk in a hermitage, or you want to end it all, or you want to be as depressed as the last dodo in Djibouti, then you better get some hope on a rope pretty fast.
This, of course, may result in something that resembles a drowning man clutching at straws to a disinterested or obtuse observer, but what it really is, is an expedient. You may realise that what you are hoping for maybe unlikely to happen, like the opposition defeating the budget in parliament; what is more likely to happen is that the Rajapaksas will stay in power for the next decade.
However, nobody really knows this for sure, not even the Rajapaksas. So, you concentrate on that smaller window of unrealistic probability. Instead of giving up everything in your present life and migrating, you stay sane and stay hopeful and stay here. You hope that the next year will bring something that will change things for the better. Maybe you even start hoping that some of the Chinthanaya policies will start working, despite the evidence. You may know enough about history and economics to know that there is little reason to believe this, but you still hope that you are wrong, just to be able to enjoy everything else about this country that does make you happy.
By definition, hope does not need to be based on something real. I still expressed hope in Santa Claus when I was nine just to get the extra presents. This is why I try not to get into conversations about God with the religious. If it works for you, machang, it works for you.
“Hope is a belief in a positive outcome related to events and circumstances in one’s life. Hope implies a certain amount of perseverance — i.e., believing that a positive outcome is possible even when there is some evidence to the contrary.” -Wikipedia