Thank you to Martin Thompson for this guest blog, which is adapted from a post he wrote for Advent on his own blog. Martin teaches RE at Uffculme School. He is a big supporter of TEDxExeter in his work, bringing pupils to the events and using videos in the classroom. In the early years, when the event was in the school holidays, he was a volunteer with a view from the wings of the Northcott.
I wonder what comes to mind when you hear that word?
A desire for something to change?
There’s been enough going on in our world recently to make even the most optimistic progressive want to give up. We’ve even taken to criticising those of us who have suggested that things may not be as bad as we at first think, that this may be a time of challenge, but also of great opportunity.
Hope appears diminished, besmirched somehow…an unattainable wisp of a thing. Our world is a mess, with little to suggest that there’s any way out. To say we ‘hope’ sounds like an unattainable expression of an idea, not any concrete reality.
We are crushed. Hope is gone.
Sometimes the English language simplifies concepts that deserve much more interesting definitions. A great example of this is the word ‘love’ – which could be used to describe desire for our partner, our interest in an author or a football team…but in Greek there are at least four different words for love – agape, philos, eros, storge… each reflecting a slightly different dimension of the same thing.
It could be helpful to explore whether there might be a better way to think about hope – perhaps looking at other understandings, other dimensions that help us glimpse something different.
For example, the Greek word that we translate as ‘hope’ – elpis – might better be translated as ‘expectant’. A sense that something is coming, something is happening. Not an empty, dreamy thing, but a visceral, tangible expression of denial that the way things are is the way things have to be.
Another helpful example might be the Latin version of the word spero, which is etymologically related to the word spiro, ‘to breathe’. It’s almost as if they’re saying to hope is to breathe, or vice versa, to breathe is to hope.
If we breathe, we have hope. If we have hope, we keep breathing.
A Latin phrase based on the works of Theocritus and Cicero echoing this idea says simply this:
Dum spiro spero…
‘While I breathe, I hope…’
Just take that in for a moment.
We breathe, we hope.
We are hope.
Our world is a mess, but we are bearers of that which has the potential to transform all that appears dark into light – hope.
We must never give up our expectation, our breath. To do so would be to stop breathing, to expire.
Dum spiro spero…
Our world is changing for ever. Something is coming, something real. But what that ‘something’ is depends on us and how it impacts us is our choice.
Our choice is to shape that change, to engage with it and bring ‘hope’ to those who feel they have nothing to live for other than hate of the ‘other’ – or to give up and to allow the darkness to overwhelm us.
Our choice is to be expectant that our efforts can and will counter those of forces who want to see us divided and in conflict – or to stand by and allow event greater horrors to emerge.
Our choice is love over fear.
We live or die by our choices. They cost us and those around us dearly every single day.
Choosing not to act, not to hope isn’t a neutral place to be. Too much is at stake here. Too many lives. We choose acceptance over resistance.
If we stop believing we stop hoping. If we stop hoping, we stop breathing.
I choose to believe.
I choose hope.
I choose to breathe.