There are many kinds of hope. Active hope, quiet hope, false hope, hope you didn’t even know you had until something happens to make you question it. For example, I’d have hoped that Scottish rock band Idlewild (whose seminal debut album accounts for the title of this blog post) would have stayed true to their indie roots instead of subsequently releasing several albums of wishy washy pap, but here we are. It’s a hope I didn’t know I had until it was lost.
All of us are hopeful, whether we know it or not. Hopeful that we’re making the right choices in life, that we’ll be happy and content in the end, that nothing will come along to alter the finely tuned trajectories of our lives. It’s not a hope we tend to fixate on, nor even consider too frequently, but it’s there, nonetheless, nestled warmly in the corners of consciousness.
When that kind of quiet hope is fulfilled, it becomes joy. When it’s jeopardised, it becomes a fed-after-midnight gremlin popping out emotional nasties with yellow eyes and dangerous claws. Hope itself is overwhelmed by paranoia, desperation, anxiety, fear and anger, and without a metaphorical Billy Peltzer around to sort shit out, the whole damn city is soon enough overrun with the monsters, and hope hides, powerless, in an air vent.
This is why hope is important. Until all hope is gone (another musical reference there, but the less said about that one the better), these demons are kept at bay. You can see humankind’s propensity towards false hope, then. Lost hope means things have gone irrevocably wrong, so it’s easier to wrap glimmering threads of ‘maybe’ around your fingers than take the heavy shackles of reality around your wrists.
And the threat of these shackles exists everywhere that hope does. They are always just off-screen, waiting in the wings. “I hope I get this job” is, of course, quite different to “I hope my mother can beat this cancer again”, but without hope both scenarios create an undesirable reality. Unemployment, financial strain, low self-worth. Grief, sadness, depression. So we cling on to these tempting threads and not until the last one snaps out of our fingers do we entertain the unhappy gremlins that have been lurking in the backs of our minds. And where’s hope, then? Sitting in a sodding air vent.
So herein lies the problem. Hope is important. But it’s also a flight risk. We nestle down into its warm bosom and wait contentedly until it either comes good or does a runner, and in the case of the latter we’ve frequently spent so long curled up with our eyes closed that the sudden harsh glare of reality leaves us blindsided.
Rationally-speaking, then, the business of hoping can just make things much worse in the end (going back to the Gremlin’s reference which is somehow dominating this post, if Gizmo had just been left in Chinatown Billy and Kate would be in smooch city instead of trying to save the world from monsters). Ironically, as my mother so fondly says: “Expect nothing and you won’t be disappointed.” (EXPLAINS EVERYTHING, RIGHT?)
And yet despite all of this, despite the rationale against ‘pinning your hopes’, and the nauseating knowledge that unfounded hope brings distressing consequences, we do it nonetheless. Like tobacco for smokers, alcohol for drinkers and casinos for gamblers, hope can provide a short-term fix for an issue we just don’t know how to deal with.
And that, unfortunately, is why hope is important.