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Hope springs eternal… istically.

Hope shifts imagined meaning to the future, when the present is obviously meaningless.

Hope is harmful in devaluing the present and shifting attention to imaginary futures that may never exist. Hope causes emotional stunting and childishness. It is inimical to emotional growth.

This page will discuss the putative value of hopeful illusions as defenses against anxiety, depression, and despair. (The logic of that is really that hope is an antidote to nihilism, which is seen as the only alternative. That’s a different ploy.) It may function as a useful defense in emergencies, but illusion is counter-productive as a long-term or general strategy.

Even in crises, hope can be harmful. Since eternalism consists of blindness to nebulosity, it is destabilized by anything that brings nebulosity to our attention. Fortunately, nebulosity is indirectly visible in everyday life: as uncertainty, surprise, endings, confusion, breakdowns, and disagreement.

Unfortunately, when in the eternalist stance, it is usually only negative manifestations of nebulosity that can shock us out of blindness. Generally that leads to nihilism rather than the complete stance. This happens for all of us, frequently. “Damn, I seem to have inadvertently offended that person I met recently who I hoped might be a friend. Oh, well, I guess it was pointless to try anyway.” More dramatically, personal crises (such as the death of a family member) are probably the most common triggers for crises of religious faith.

Crisis, by destabilizing eternalism, can be an opening into either nihilism or the complete stance. We should prepare for this. In a crisis, we generally get caught up in strategic suffering, i.e. frantically trying to get the world to go back to behaving the way we think it ought to. It is difficult then to think about what may seem like abstract philosophical concerns. Knowing that unwanted events are likely to tip us into nihilism, knowing how to recognize nihilism as we shift into it, and knowing the antidotes to nihilism, is a first step.

I will discuss, in passing, hope as a Christian “theological virtue.” This is hope specifically for salvation. It derives from will, not from the passions.

The antidote to hope is active acceptance of the present as it is, and prospective acceptance of the future, however it will be.

I have written about this from a Buddhist perspective at “Charnel ground” and “Pure Land“—a pair of essays that are best read together.