When Hope has Become Our Only Hope, Maybe It’s Time to Get Real

My contribution to a LinkedIn discussion entitled “Does Adherence to Rationality Lead to Atheism?

Regarding Martin’s remarks ending with, “And at the end of the day, we can only hope that truth, reason, and compassion, the stuff of a good life for all, will grow and prosper,” to which George remarked, “We can only hope!” By his reply, George seemed to be suggesting that hope is not a good foundation on which to stand.

How did we arrive at a place where hope is our only hope? This is not new. Throughout recorded history humans have hoped for a better tomorrow. The problem is: Hope enables us to ignore reality. My dear daughter, who is going through a divorce, is incensed when I suggest that the institution of marriage has failed. By that assertion, she tells me, “you are destroying all hope for my future. Why do you insist on doing that to me?!” My view is: It is because of past hopes that she is in her present predicament. We do not believe in institutions because of their successes. Only by ignoring their failures can we keep hope alive. And since hope has become our only hope, such blindness is essential to our emotional survival, and thus to our ability to even carry on. But, by blinding us to reality, hope is our enemy, not our friend.

Martin also looks to truth and reason to eventually prevail. Though I like his thoughts in general, I see little hope in either truth or reason. Like all other species, humans are emotional beings; we neither possess truth, nor are we reasonable. As evident by the views shared in this LinkedIn thread, there are virtually as many truths as there are truth seekers. How can truth lead to a practical consensus on anything? As for reason being the answer: I know of no reason why life exists. If being purely reasonable were my objective, I could find no cause to even eat.

We eat, love, express anger, copulate, accept, reject, grieve, sleep, sacrifice, and kill, because we are emotional beings. Reason does exist, but only to enable us to figure out how to satisfy our genetically based emotions—like finding a place to rest when tired, for example. If we find ourselves using reason for any purpose other than to satisfy innate emotions, then we are being prevented, by cultural impositions, from being true to life. Instead of finding fulfillment by serving life, which is our normal and preferred mode of functioning, we are trying to find it in the realm of pure reason. Only in that realm does truth, and the beliefs that spring from it, exist. These include beliefs in god, good, evil, religion, ideology, nationalism, constitutions, mankind’s limitless possibilities, and science and technology.

We have trapped ourselves in a surreal existence where, instead of finding life complete, we find it wanting. Consider these thoughts of Neal Donald Walsch, author of Conversations with God. 

“Most people don’t understand that they were already complete and perfect the moment they arrived on this planet. The big secret we all often miss is that our purpose here is not to somehow become more than we are, but to simply experience who we are.”

In my mind, Walsch is not just talking about the reality we were born to experience, but the one that animals yet experience. Animals are subject only to life. As such, they experience a clarity of purpose that we can hardly even imagine. We are born subjects of life also, but awaken to find ourselves subjects of institutions. Deprived of our natural clarity of purpose, we are reduced to trying to find it in truth.

Why are we trapped in this weird place where hope is our only option? When offering my views on marriage, my daughter, at the top of her lungs, puts it well: “I can’t change anything!!!” She’s not alone in her sense of powerlessness. We are all rendered powerless to bring about the change needed to again serve live by our abject dependence on institutions.

Is there a way out? Though the mounting uncertainties associated with our way of life give us reason to pause, we are trapped in our present bizarre existence by the very fact that we are indeed emotional, instead of reasonable beings. Escape would require that we overcome our institutionally imposed fear of life, so we could again trust our lives to relationships, instead of to the promise of money, property, and institutions. Only with others, to whom we are bonded in spiritual trust, to care for and to care for us, can we experience the full measure of the amazing creatures we really are, instead of having to pretend, for the sake of our very existence, that we are somehow more than we are. 

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