To hope is to be ready at every moment for that which is not yet born, and yet not become desperate if there is not birth in our lifetime.*
Erich Fromm contemplates the nature of hope following Eugene McCarthy’s presidential election loss to Richard Nixon in 1967. Fromm had hoped for a change in American policy through a man who was a professor, poet and philosopher. It wasn’t to be.
Though published in 1970, Fromm’s words are more than relevant for today, describing, as they do a spectre, unseen by many, walking among us:
It is a new spectre: a completely mechanised society, devoted to maximal material output and consumption, directed by computers: and in this social process, man himself is being transformed into a part of the total machine, well fed and entertained yet passive, unalive and with little feeling. With the victory of the new society, individualism and privacy will have disappeared; feelings toward others will be engineered by psychological conditioning and other devices, or drugs which also serve a new ind of introspective experience.*
So begins his argument for a revolution of hope that is
neither passive waiting nor is it unrealistic forcing of circumstances*.
Rather, persons of hope
see and cherish all signs of new life and are ready at every moment to help the birth of that which is ready to be born.*
Many more hope than are aware, Fromm describing in 1970’s-ese those who are unconsciously hoping:
Our social pattern is such that the successful man is not supposed to be afraid or bored or lonely. He must find this world the best of all worlds; in order to have the best chance for promotion he must repress fear as well as doubt, depression, boredom or hopelessness.*
I was reading Fromm alongside Rohit Bhargava’s curating habits – included in my blog of a couple of days ago – which offer skills for the hopeful person who wants to
see and cherish all signs of new life and are ready at every moment to help the birth of that which is ready to be born*.
Bhargava’s habits are curiosity, observation, fickleness, reflection and elegance.**
In this context, I read these as finding what you’re curious about and widening this out – everything is attached to everything else; take a longer look at what began with a curious glance – what it is, what it’s doing, where it’s heading; don’t get hung up on one or two things but stay curious and observant – everything is attached to everything else; build deep reflection in – journal, walk, talk with others, read; move with and give aid to what is wanting to be born, in collaboration wherever possible.
Perhaps then, to use Richard Rohr’s words, we might be ‘seers of alternatives’ who ‘move forward by influencing events and inspiring people’ who know that ‘wisdom is the art of the possible’.^
*From Erich Fromm’s The Revolution of Hope;
**From Rohit Bhargava’s Non Obvious 2019;
^From Richard Rohr’s Eager to Love.