The Audacity of Hope
The world is doomed, right? Poverty, inequality, climate change, disruption, conflict, and a deteriorating health crisis; just a matter of time until doom comes calling? Not fair. Where’s the bed of roses? Or is it that the promise is kept, just that we weren’t told the bed had thorns too?
Guess what? The world has only gotten better. The killing fields of the world wars are behind us, and we’ve only gotten better at preventing conflict. More lives are saved in pandemics due to enhanced research, production, and distribution. And even as the repressed struggle for their fair share, their rights are no longer universal questions.
Perhaps we now live a little closer to paradise. But what does paradise look like? No one knows, but everyone agrees it exceeds the limitations of reality. To the Indians of the 1960s and 1970s, who left home for Delhi and stood in never-ending afternoon queues for an elusive sarkari naukri, paradise would be where they could apply for jobs from the comforts of their homes. And now that the dream has become a reality, paradise means a universal right to desired employment.
In the immediate aftermath of the eruption of Mount Tambora in 1815, when the world reeled under the darkness perpetrated by clouds of ash, paradise would have been a place where tilling the land would grow crops. Today, paradise lies beyond the decades of struggle against climate change.
And it is good. It’s how it should be. For as long as the ideal is elusive, there is hope. The hope that the rains would usher in clearer skies, that today’s struggles would make tomorrow’s songs, and that excruciating pain would translate into incredible strength.
It must have been this hope that would have given Prime Minister Shastri the resolve to win the 1965 war, that would have made Swami Vivekananda address a foreign audience as ‘brothers and sisters’, and held steady the freedom fighters consigned to the cellular jail.
There are examples closer by too. Why does a farmer sell land to educate their children? Hope. Why does one apply to another job after a hundred rejections? Hope. Why do we sacrifice pleasure and slog for salaries? For the hope that there’s something beyond the EMIs waiting for us.
Now, do all aspirations come true? No chance. Is it sometimes better to just let it be? Maybe. Do hardships always make sense? Maybe not.
But we forge ahead anyway. And that, perhaps, is the audacity of hope.