I saw a beautiful sunrise, as red as an opening tulip, after the wild storms finished harassing Australia’s East Coast on that recent weekend of devastation and sorrow. The spreading light in the dark sky made me think of the wonderful but often maligned feeling of hope.

In today’s world of media-purveyed images of endless conflict and turmoil at home and abroad, and of people falling over each other to show they can distinguish reality (usually the ugly type) from illusion, cynicism is commonly the default position for viewing life. Hope tends to be derided as a shallow misinterpretation of facts, of escapism even. Reality is its enemy, and the enemy normally wins. The attitude has undesirable effects on all but on some more than others. A negative perception of reality tending towards squeezing out hope forms the basis of depression, a phenomenon more and more present nowadays.

But the deprecation of hope is contrary to the natural instincts we all have. Samuel Johnson said “Hope is itself a species of happiness and perhaps the chief happiness which this world affords.”Who doesn’t want to be happy? Socrates told us we must aspire to it, and he has never been contradicted on the subject.

Hope is a primary aspect of the human condition, so much so that if circumstances seem not to allow feeling it at the time, it’s reasonable to reassess them in the light of other, more positive factors present in one’s life, so that it can emerge from the gloom in some form, even faintly at first. The power it infuses gives strength to continue.

Marcus Vellinius, the main character in the book of historical fiction I wrote #thetortoiseinasia, has to deal with the destruction of hope and rebuild his life after the devastating battle of Carrhae (in 53 BCE when the Roman army encountered its worst defeat since Hannibal crossed the Alps). Along #theSilkRoad traversing Central Asia and Western China, he regains the quality of hope through a struggle of the soul that finds salvation in something outside the self.


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