Hope's work

Hope and the coronavirus outbreak (2/2): On going back to ‘normal’

Work with you image - painting by Daniel Balanescu (detail)

Reading time: 11 min.

Sean cleans the streets here. The high street is deserted – no people, no Big Mac boxes or Coke cans – so he spends his mornings going up the canal and down the river and round again. Evidently, the coronavirus lockdown has thrown him off his routine, spinning him out of the town centre and pitching him among the greenery. The crisis has opened up his day to a few new possibilities that just weren’t there a month or so ago.

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Hope and the coronavirus outbreak (1/2): A few first thoughts

I don’t really know what to make of what’s happening yet. ‘Normal’, such as it was, seems to have ended. It might come back, but for a long while at least most of us will probably be living in a kind of crisis consciousness.

Does this leave any room at all for ‘hope’? I think so, if we’re careful about what we might mean by it. Here are a few early, personal thoughts about what a hopeful approach to this crisis might look like (will probably develop this later).

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Hope (8/8): Bringing it home

Reading time: 12 minutes.

‘This leads us, probably, to as good a definition of the beloved community as we can hope for: common experience and common effort on a common ground to which one willingly belongs.’

Wendell Berry, in ‘Writer and region’

This final post weaves together the six strands of conscious hopefulness that this blog series has been exploring and wonders how to hold them well. Here they all are, summarised as queries:

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The day after yesterday

I know I’m not alone in feeling deeply upset this morning after last night’s election results. I feel a loss of a hope that I had been holding on to, perhaps more tightly than was wise.

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Hope (7/8): Who’s with us?

Reading time: 9 min.

In last week’s blog we found that people of hope, unlike those who are simply optimistic, don’t depend on a future in which all the brokenness of the world gets fixed. For as long as the life around them deserves love, they’ll stand with it and walk with it – they do the work of hope whatever its outcome may be.

To stand with and walk with, and to be stood with and walked with, is the meaning of solidarity, which is the sixth and last core condition of grounded hopefulness we’re covering in this blog series. It’s been with us from the beginning. Last week we found it in Joe, a nurse, flanneling the body of a dying patient; and in Jo, an activist, confronting the companies that plunder the earth and trammel its people.

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Hope (6/8): To be or not to be

Reading time: 8 min.

In last week’s blog we were looking at how hopeful people find, in a world that seems locked down by the powerful, that it’s actually a place of continuous change, where ‘the power of the powerless’ counts. For people well-grounded in hope, even our stubbornly violent ways carry the potential to move towards well-being and justice.

But if we imagine that the whole point of hope is to find a cure for what’s ill, or to fix what’s broken – then we’re lumping ourselves with another illusion. The people I’ve been talking with – all of whom work with hope in some way – don’t seem to see things in this way.

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Hope (5/8): Ripening the times

Reading time: 8 min.

If you’ve been reading these blogs from the beginning (thank you) then you’ll know I’ve been introducing people who are well-grounded in their hope. So far we’ve looked at three qualities they share in common. All feel involved, or ‘rolled in’, with the life of the world around them; all share a feeling for the world’s vitality and promise, which charges their lives and work; and all are willing to face up to the world as a tragically violent place.

Something else they share is a distinctive way of reading the world around them, particularly when it comes to how change happens. This ‘way of seeing’ is our fourth core condition of conscious hope.

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Hope (4/8): Facing tragedy

Reading time: 8 min.

In these blogs we’re exploring six qualities of consciously hopeful people and communities. We’ve looked at the first two so far: involvement in the life of the world, rather than distance from it; and a feeling for the vitality of people and planet, rather than indifference to it. This week’s post is about a third: the readiness to face tragedy.

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Hope (3/8): A place of promise

Reading time: 8 min.

‘Hope is something you make every day’. This is Basma, and the first thing she tells me about hope. When a militia came to burn down her home in Libya, she and her daughters ran for their lives under a barrage of bullets. Now Basma lives in Liverpool as a refugee, caring alone for her children, working odd jobs, studying human rights. I ask her the difference between real hope and false, and she says, ‘You have to face the tragedy of the world.’

This is hope’s test – can it face up to the world as a tragic place? We’ll come back to the question itself next week, and to Basma. This week’s blog is about what enables hopeful people to face ‘the tragedy of the world’ and not be left defeated.

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Hope (2/8): Into the life of the world (b)

Reading time: 8 min.

This blog series is about people of hope: how are some people and communities able to live and act in hope, conscious though they are of a future that may be becoming harder to face?

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Hope (1/8): Into the life of the world (a)

Reading time: 8 min.

I’ve been sitting down with people who work with hope in some way: activists, refugees, a nurse, chaplains, psychotherapists, people without homes, and community workers. What are they striving for, what motivates them, what in their lives and world has brought them to ‘hope’s work’? In these blogs I’ll be introducing you to some of them.

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