Facing hopelessness

What does it mean to live in a state of hopelessness? Where does it lead? As I'm reading Jurgen Moltmann's In the End -- The Beginning (Fortress, 2004) in preparation for attending the Moltmann Conversation in Chicago, I came across this statement.

There are two forms of hopelessness. The one is arrogance or presumption (praesumptio). The other is despair, the obliteration of hope (desperatio) . In presumption we take the fulfillment of hope into our own hands, and no longer hope for God. In despair we doubt that there can ever be fulfillment, and destroy hope in ourselves. All despair presupposes hope. The pain of despair lies in the fact that hope exists, but that there appears to be no way for the hope to be fulfilled. Where hope for life is frustrated in every respect, the hope turns against the hoper and eats into him,. 'I looked for work everywhere and was always turned down, Then I got to the point when nothing more mattered', said a young burglar in Berlin. When there is no longer any prospect of meaningful life, people turn to meaningless violence: 'Destroy whatever you can destroy.' When hope dies the killing begins. Hopelessness and brutality are just two sides of the same sad coin. (p. 94).

When we look around the world and see the increasing spread of violence -- in all in all it's forms --is there not some truth to this analysis? There is of course, arrogance involved in violence also, but in either case, there is no hope. If faith is the foundation of hope -- what does faith involve? How might people of faith be agents of healing in the world?


Anonymous said…
Is it a fact that there is more violence in the world? Perhaps we just hear about it more in this information age? Major war is pretty much obsolete for example, I hope. David Mc
Anonymous said…
John said…
I agree with David, I think that more people throughout the world experience less violence in their personal lives than ever before. And the violence which does occur is no more brutal than we have witness in the past.

My conclusion is that while human and humanity will always retain the capacity for violence, due to the constantly accellerating media exposure to safe and secure environs such as are illustrated in first world nations, people's expectations (i.e., hope) to live in peaceful and secure circumstances is ever increasing. And with those increased expectations come more insistent demands on their leaders to met those expectations.

But just as we will always have the poor, we will always have brutal sociopaths and some of those will succeed in obtaining great power and will thereby succeed in reinvigorating the brutal side of human society.

I am hopeful, but not naive.

John said…
I was thinking about this topic and about what the term post modern communicates about contemporary attitudes toward hope and hopefulness.

We have accepted the label "post-modern" because we think it most accurately communicates the core principle of this era.

For me post-modern has always been a term of despair and hopelessness.

The despair is that previously we thought of ourselves as modern, on the cutting edge of the future, forward looking and aggressively reaching forward. Beneath that attitude was the belief that the future was bright, hopeful and full of possibilities. We have gone beyond that now.

The term "post-modern" does not assume that we have transcended modernity, it does not assume that we have strode into the future. Instead it suggests that we have simply stepped off that cutting edge - into a void. We no longer embrace visions of limitless possibilities; instead we look back on failed dreams and we avoid looking ahead into a future of darkness.

In fact the term "post-modern" does not speak at all of the future, only a failed past - as if the future is unthinkable, if it exists at all.

I have never liked the term because it reeks of bitterness, failure, and dreamlessness. I would seek out a new label, one that claims a future, and a bright one, filled with possibilities, some realistic, as well as others which are unrealistically enthusiastic.

I believe that this is, has been, and should always be, the message of our Christian faith, that the future is worth reaching for, worth envisioning, worth the striving, and worth striving for, even if, like Moses we don't get to cross over into the promised land, God has placed that future in front of us, not behind us.

Jesus came to bring the gift of the kingdom and of kingdom living to us. We need to rejoice and accept his gift and to go out and share that gift with all who will listen.

Anonymous said…
Wow John, almost poetic.

I feel the same way about the term.

Perhaps the next could be "world unity era" since we are connecting up like never before.

I was thinking about the violence issue and my life flashed before my eyes recalling all the violent and near violent episodes from my past. I hung out with a pretty tough crowd during my teen years. I was never aggressive and probably help save my friends' limbs and/or lives a few times- I stuck up for a buddy one of those times and got a huge shiner for it- turned out he had sold drugs to some girl and probably had it coming. I have never even struck anyone (except my 9 brothers and sisters a few times). I have been robbed- knife to throat, jumped, in the middle of near rumbles (chains pipes) etc. There were major fights outside my jr high school almost every week. A boy was beaten to death when I was 10 just 2 blocks from my house once. I have lived within 5 miles of where I live now all my life. I usually stood my ground and pretended I had no fear or threat or adrenaline. It usually worked.

Things have been calmer as my 4 children have grown- as far as I know. I may hear stories someday- David Mc
John said…

It is bizarre. I seem to live in a cocoon, walking around in such a dynamic world and amongst people who have endured so much, with me so oblivious. And I am always profoundly surprised and truly disturbed when the cover of my cocoon is peeled back for a moment and the violent underside is exposed to me.

Except for four schools years at MSU and a year in Redford, I too have lived my whole life within seven miles of your house.

I feel most of my life I have been preferentially protected and surrounded by the grace of God - I could so often have chosen different paths but for reasons I never understood I went a certain way.

I once had a discussion where someone expressed gratitude that God had kept them on a short leash. I saw things differently, for me, it was as if I were in a very crowded place and God sent people (angels) to gently and surreptitiously nudge me so that I kept going on a certain path that only God could see. Mistakes yes, but there always seemed to be a safety net.

Thanks for sharing.

Anonymous said…
Your story is as bizarre as mine.

I fell into a bad crowd after confronting a kid while I was in grade school. He was harassing my younger brother on the way home from school. We used to walk over 2 miles back and forth to Guardian Angels school. My brother begged me to beat him up. He was really traumatized. I tracked him down in a house that was under construction where he used to smoke and hang out upstairs. We became fast friends. My brother wasn’t too happy, but he actually ended up friends too.

My life fell apart on entering Jr High School. All I cared about was the electronics class. Who knew that was where they put all the bad kids- the greasers? They demanded to know, was I a frat or a greaser? Which side was I going to be on for the rumble at the football game? Thank God there was a middle road, I quickly became a hippie! Anyway, I skipped school 3-4 days a week and dropped out in 10th grade. I took a GED later and went to community college, made the dean’s list the first year- which totally freaked out my dad.

How did you avoid this stuff? You were a lucky frat, right? Kidding. My point- I see less of this today. David Mc
John said…
No, actually, I never belonged to either group, or to the druggie group either. I had a small set of friends and we survived outside of that structure, with contacts in both groups.

I think that two things contributed greatly to my avoiding more destructive choices: I had five sisters (4 older than I) which gentled me a great deal, and I am by nature very non-confrontational. I can confront and advocate when I choose to - but it requires a Herculean emotional effort to step forward like that.

I attribute it to grace. I don't know why but there are angels all around me.

Anonymous said…
I'm not complaining a bit. You know I was the 5th of 10, 4 brothers and 5 sisters. I could sneak out or stay away for a night or two without even being noticed.

I had many wonderful adventures in those years I'd never trade. I used to hitchhike everywhere, until those goons with the knife and screwdrivers picked me up.

In many ways and many times, I felt like I had, and was an angel too. David Mc
John said…
We both made it through, with our angels, and formed by our adventures.

There is much to rejoice about.


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