Friday, October 17, 2008


I so enjoyed all the food stories and tips I got last weekend (and talking back and forth in the comments) that I think I'll ask another question for this weekend.

A few months ago, I read a paranormal romance novel*, chock full of demons. There were demons like lies, violence, pain, etc. But guess who/what else was a demon according to the author?


BFP and Sylvia and I hashed this out on twitter. We pretty much decided, "She's right." Anjali tried to get us to be a little less pessimistic, to no avail.

So, without giving you my reasoning (at first), I want to ask, do you think hope is a demon**?
*Yes I read the whole series. No, no comments or observations on my leisure reading are permissible.

**Doesn't have to be demon in the religious or otherworldy sense. Do you think hope is "bad"/leads people astray is another way to put it, I guess


Renee said...

Wow do you have a knack for questions. I can only say that for me, hope is what keeps me getting up each day. When I watch the news and read what evil is going on in the world from racism, wars, violence against women,child abuse etc., without hope that someday people would see the light I would slip right back under the covers and sleep my life away.
For some people hope is what keeps is going in the face of all of the ugliness that has taken root in this world.

elle said...

See, Renee, I have those thoughts too.

Then I get to thinking about how I act on the casino riverboats, for example, wasting my money, hoping the next time I'll hit. That's why I rarely go.

In a more serious tone, maybe the danger is not in the hope itself, but in the reality of rarely having expectations met, of having hopes crushed, of things not seeming to get better.

I keep thinking of Langston Hughes's A Dream Deferred.

Does it explode?

Stentor said...

I can definitely see how hope has its downside. Irrational hope can lead you to do misguided or destructive things, expecting them to eventually work. Hope can lead you to ignore the flaws in some person or course of action. Hope can make you passive, just waiting for things to turn around on their own. It's not uncommon for power-abusers to deliberately keep a grain of hope alive in their victims in order to string them along and expose them to more harm. Hope has its upside, absolutely -- but that's exactly what makes its downside so insidious.

elle said...

stentor, that summarizes my reasoning so eloquently.

Hagar's Daughter said...


This question has me putting on my theologian's cap (great teachers demand us to use our greatness, thanks).

I think Voltaire said, "Hope is a mania of maintaining that everything is right when its wrong."

If I may be so bold as to disagree with Voltaire to say that I think he was referring to "wishful thinking." Hope accepts what is real and it is realism that pushes one toward hope or cultivates hope.

Hope shouldn't be confused with optimism either. Optimism is born from the human spirit but does not connect beyond that.

Wishful thinking and optimism can be demons in that they can lead to what renee and stentor mentioned in their comments. Hope is spiritual; I don't mean religious. Spirituality and religion are very different IMHO.

Hope is based in reality, produced by our character / human spirit, but grounded in spirituality. It's connected to that which is greater than we are - God, the universe, higher power, the collective of humanity, whatever one has decided to name this life giving, life sustaining energy.

Now to put on my Christian clergy collar: St Paul said in Romans 5 that the hope that is in God does not disappoint (even in the midst of all that is evil).

Keep the questions coming professor.

elle said...

hagar's daughter,

good to see you! i have a question about what i understand your description of hope to be.

a few years ago on the radio, i heard tavis smiley talking about black people and hopw nd faith. he said he'd read or heard something that said black people kept pressing on during the dark days of slavery and jim crow because we/they had hope.

he disagreed. he believed that people have hope when they see that things can be different/better. black people had seen no such thing; what they held onto, what kept them going was faith.

i thought of that immediately when i read your words (and now that i think of it, renee's, too).

what do you think of that?

and then i just thought of Hebrews11:1-- "Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen." I don't know what I'm thinking about it :-), but it's on my mind.

Renee said...


In a more serious tone, maybe the danger is not in the hope itself, but in the reality of rarely having expectations met, of having hopes crushed, of things not seeming to get better.

Let me clarify a bit more. Hope is only truly possible if one believes that the essence of human nature is good. For that to be affirmed it only takes small acts.
While in many ways we are truly a destructive species, on a micro level in our daily interactions there is enough visible goodness to keep hope alive. The problem is that the more we advance, the more we expect spectacular acts. If you think about it though, do we really go through many days when we don't see a single act of human kindness? It can be as simple as holding a door or your honey making you a cup of tea. It is the narcissism that is damaging and when we step away from that place, hope flourishes. I suppose I hope because I have faith in the goodness of humanity.

Hagar's Daughter said...

Professor Elle,
I've been thinking more on this. Let me add:
Hope and faith are so tightly bound that from a Christian perspective you can't have one without the other.

It doesn't mean that a person never becomes discouraged; humans do all the time especially since hope accepts reality, but expects what is ideal.

Hope is to confidently expect an outcome. Faith is to trust God on the outcome. This is not always easy to do and it shouldn't be. All relationships require work and I don't understand why persons, namely Christians, don't accept this when it comes to their relationship with God.

I see Bro Tavis' point. However, I think that African slaves and black Americans had hope also. I don't know if I believe that the hoped, meaning expected, slavery or Jim Crow to end, but I blieve that they hoped for a better outcome whether that meant returning to Africa, running away, death of slaveowner, or even their own death. Some of them had to hope otherwise Harriet Tubman wouldn't have risked her life, Nat Turner & others wouldn't have revolted, and others wouldn't have run away or killed the slaveowner. Without hope there would be no Negro Spirituals or freedom fighters. There was hope otherwise I believe there would have been mass suicides in large numbers.

I also believe their hope was grounded in faith - the Gods that followed them from Africa or the Christian God they adopted in the Americas.

I think Bro Tavis' definition of hope is based on a secular meaning - wishful thinking or optimism. Hope that is anchored in faith in God does not disappoint. It is based on what is now and what is to come. It is active and dynamic in nature.

I firmly believe that this is one reason that black people across the glob are a strong people - strong oppression bred strong hearts resulting in strong character. If we are to be annihilated it will come from within - we will implode. (That's another discussion for another day).

elle said...

Good morning! It's way too early on a Saturday, but I'm trying to write coherently.

Hope is only truly possible if one believes that the essence of human nature is good.

Renee, I got your comment when I rolled over this morning, mid-sleep, and I initially thought, "That's simple and true." Then, I began to wonder, what do I really think about human nature?

Meaning, I don't know if I've ever wrestled with that question much on my own--for example, my parents "taught" me (not just through words) that the essence of human nature is good. I accepted that and worked under those premises.

But acceptance is not (always) belief. So, I'm trying to pinpoint a time when my acceptance became belief--because I do believe that--and why I came to believe.

I'm also thinking that my beliefs about hope mean that, somewhere along the way, my faith in human nature has been shaken (of course it has--look at the things we live and write about!) to an extent with which I'm not comfortable.

elle said...

hagar's daughter,

i'm taking in everything you're writing, turning it over, thinking. you're giving me much mental exercise. :-P

two more questions/observations.

you have made a delineation (sp?) between hope and optimism, and i don't think i can see the line so clearly. i'd like to hear more about that, because for me, hope is the essence of optimism.

also this: hope accepts reality, but expects what is ideal gets to the heart of the question and my initial answer--I never thought of hope as "accepting reality." That was part of the "danger" of it.

We have a fall carnival in a little while at my son's school, but when I come back (or if I have a minute after I get ready) I want to talk about how I fully acknowledge that hope can lead to great things--we all see that--butI thought it'd be interesting to explore the downside of hope.

Renee said...


But would you even bother to write if you didn't have hope? There would be no point in blogging for activism if at least on some level we didn't believe that human nature was good. There would be no point in writing if we didn't believe it was possible that change was possible.

elle said...

Renee, I definitely have hope-both that things can change and in our nature. it's what keeps me going.

more later, i promise

Brian said...

It's an interesting question, elle, and I don't have a solid answer. But I do find it interesting that in Greek mythology, in the story of Pandora, Hope is at the bottom of the same box that contains all the demons, which at least suggests that people of an earlier time thought that hope was at least akin to the many things that torture us.

I look at it as one of those classic dualities--can't have hope without despair, or you wouldn't recognize it otherwise. And in Christian teaching, the line between demon and angel is a matter of choice as well--demons are fallen angels--so it makes sense to me to look at Hope as a demon of sorts. It's an interesting idea, and I think I'll have to look at those books when I get the time.

elle said...

brian, the books i read are based on the pandora story! basically that a group of men (and one woman) who were angry about something, chose to open pandora's box, unleashing the demons onto world. as punishment, each of them now has a demon housed in his/her body. hope is one of those demons.

mrs. o said...

Elle, after reading everyone's comments, I would like to ask this...Is it possible to have hope but not faith? Hagar's daughter says from a Christian perspective they are as one. As a high school teacher I hope that once my students graduate and go to college, they will remember things that I have tried to teach them and they will apply it in their lives, but as the years continue to pass by I have begun to feel that my hope is at times a demon. I am trying to mentor children who many times could care less and my hope feels so constricting. My faith in my abilities to inspire this younger generation is fading. So am I losing hope in my students or am I losing faith in myself? Do you have to have faith in order to have hope?

Brian said...

I have hope in my students, but I don't have faith in them or the system of education. I say that, in part, because I teach college freshpeople most semesters, and I see the writing skills they graduate with, first hand, and I don't blame their teachers.

I could make nearly 25% more per year if I went to the high school system, but I already have trouble keeping up with the (on average) 88 students I have every semester, and I usually only see them twice a week. Twice that many every day? Not a chance. There's not enough money to make it worth that.

I hope my students will do well, and that the skills they developed will prove useful, but I don't have any faith that they'll use them in the long term. It's tough to stay an optimist when you teach for a living, as I'm sure many people here can confirm.

Hagar's Daughter said...

Ok Professor I'll try to make my point. I'm still wearing my Christian clergy collar so I'll speak from that perspective. I will attempt to differentiate the sacred/spiritual from the secular.

Optimism is a belief or an outlook that things will get better or are already good. It's basis is that humans are inherently good. And it stops there. We use optimism and hope interchangeable, but theologically hope has a different meaning. From a secular view the two word are synonyms.

Theologically, they are not. Optimism rests on the HUMAN spirit being good, even if it is made good by its Creator. Hope rests in God - it is relying on the reliable. So "hoping" that students do well on an exam is really being "optimistic" and of course there is nothing wrong with that. But when teachers have faith or trust their students to do what is righteous - study for the exam, etc, your hope is based on something you can rely on i.e. what have the students done in the past. Our hope in God is the same: What has God done in the past, what is God's pattern of behavior, that makes us able to trust God? "Relying on the reliable," that's what hope is.

For the Christian Hope is having confidence in the faithfulness or the loyalty of God and reliance on God's loyalty to humanity.

Hope and Faith are so closely bound until I believe they are hard to separate. We can have a crisis of faith while maintaining hope (confidence in the promises of God or in an expected outcome) or we can experience such despair and great sadness while maintaining faith (trust in God).

Hope accepts what is real, meaning hope is not denial of good, bad, or evil, but does not accept reality as TRUTH or the ideal. example: racism exists = reality; all humans should have equal opportunity to (fill in the blank)= the ideal. The "ideal" is why you are motivated to blog, to engage in activism, to vote, etc.

Truth for the Christian is not a thing, but a person and was embodied in that person.

Proverbs says that "hope deferred makes the heart sick," which is based on the human spirit. The hope that was released from Pandora's box is hope that is also based on human spirit.

The Christian's hope is in the Hope of Glory, in the resurrection, in God being on the side of the oppressed.

Anonymous said...

I've been thinking about this, what to write, but all I could come up with is-hope is a joke. Not very eloquent.

elle said...


i'm glad you stopped by.

mrs. o said...

@ Brian,
You're right about it being hard to stay optimistic, but if I am not going to stay optimistic and I feel my hope for my students is dwindling, shouldn't I leave before my hope dies a slow death? Do I continue hoping that things will change simply because I want to have faith that they will change?

Revelations and ruminations from one southern sistorian...