Hating hope?

by Jan on June 30, 2011

“Hope is a terrible thing—a plague,” says best-selling author Ann Patchett, in her newest book “State of Wonder.”

A shudder of disagreement went through the audience during a live interview in the St. Paul, Minnesota Public Radio’s (MPR) auditorium last week.  It was a taping of a talk with host Kerri Miller and Ms. Patchett, who read a long excerpt from her book, included the above-mentioned quote.

I heard whispers in the audience firmly stating, “I don’t agree with that!”

As the evening ended, Kerri Miller said, “I still don’t agree with you about hope,” and most of us agreed with Kerri.

Ms. Patchett was asked to expand on her theory of hope, it was clear she thinks that people who hope for something are wasting their time, and that action and hard work are a core value, as she understands it, and NOT hope.

One of the audience members offered the following quote by Saint Augustine:  “Hope has two beautiful daughters: their names are anger and courage.  Anger that things are the way they are.  Courage to make them the ways they ought to be.” Ms. Patchett wholeheartedly agreed.

Ms. Patchett’s passion for writing a great story is evident.  She didn’t simply hope to become a nationally acclaimed author; she worked hard for it.  As they say, she paid her dues—she earned her way to the best-seller list of the New York Times and to be the winner of many awards for her writing. Personally, I admire her for that.

I liked her book, and I recommend it. But I think her hard line view against hope could be revised. For what it is worth, here is what I think about hope:

  • Hope is hardwired in everyone’s brain. See the front cover article from Time Magazine on June 5, 2011.
  • Hope exists in our hearts as well as our minds.
  • It is not THAT we hope, BUT HOW WE HOPE.  Victor Frankl, Holocaust survivor, author and psychiatrist, reflects on this idea in his ground breaking work, “Man’s Search for Meaning.”
  • We connect with hope in our choices.  It is with even the smallest of  actions that hope can surfaces and remain.
  • Many words apply to hope—courage, resilience, optimism, patience, and risk, and even peace of mind.
  • The steady application of hope brings opportunities to become tough minded, and stronger than ever.

Hope’s power can change lives. It has changed my life more than once.