The title for this blog was stolen (like in baseball) from a poem I memorized in grammar school, Casey At the Bat by Ernest Lawrence Thayer in 1888. He in turn stole (like in plagiarism) the line from an essay titled An Essay on Man by Alexander Pope in 1733-34.
Just in case you can’t remember the poem, or never heard of Mighty Casey, here is a brief summary. The baseball fans of Mudville, who were watching their team lose that day, were divided into two groups, the “struggling few (who) got up to go leaving there the rest” and the loyal fans who stayed because of their belief in the “hope that springs eternal within the human breast”, and they were counting on Mighty Casey to whack out a home run and win the day for the Mudville Nine. If you want to know the outcome of the game, click on the link above.
As an example, it seems to me that in some ways, many of us are waiting for “a Mighty Casey like” person or movement to fulfill our hope that climate change isn’t as serious as ninety-seven percent of scientists believe it to be, and we can go about our life as usual. If we’re one of those deniers, I think we need to listen to the wise sage Pogo, who said in a 1971 cartoon, “We Met the Enemy and He is US” Pogo’s declaration has become a universal truth that applies to most organizations, including the church. Like many others, I believe that the laity is the key to change. Having aired our grievances, and recognized that we are part of the problem, we need to keep hope alive. We all need to become change agents and not just “leave it up to George”. This blog will focus on those who believe that “hope that springs eternal…”, and are willing and able to follow Pogo’s challenge to be part of the solution.
HOPE and HOPELESSNESS
So, here are a few words about hope and hopelessness. I don’t intend to use “hope” in the biblical or theological sense, as in Faith, Hope and Charity, but in a more everyday way, as in “Hope is the belief in what is possible and the expectation of things to come.” Or as St. Augustine of Hippo described it, “Hope has two beautiful daughters. Their names are Anger and Courage; anger at the way things are, and courage to see that they do not remain the way they are.” Or if we think of hope as a movement, the Chinese author and Guru Lin Yutang described it as, “Hope is like a road in the country; there was never a road, but when many people walk on it, the road comes into existence.“
In a previous blog Life, Liberty and Pursuit of Happiness , I introduced the founder of positive psychology, Martin Seligman. If you want to refresh your memory you might check that same blog in a section entitled The Science of Happiness. And if you haven’t listened to Dr. Seligman’s TED TALK entitled The New Era of Positive Psychology I think you’d find it very helpful.
The first thing we need to decide “Is hope a feeling or a cognitive process?” In an article titled Hope: A Way of Thinking, C.R. Rick Snyder, a deceased positive psychologist, “…offers a way of looking at hope that goes beyond defining hope as a feeling.” In an article by Dr. Brene’ Brown, Learning to Hope , she summarizes Snyder’s method by saying hope happens when:
- We have the ability to set realistic goals (I know where I want to go)
- We are able to figure out how to achieve those goals, including the ability to stay flexible and develop alternative routes ( I know how to get there, I’m persistent, and I can tolerate disappointment and try again).
- We believe in ourselves (I can do this!).
Dr. Brown is a research professor at the University of Houston. She is the author of three #1 New York Times Bestsellers: Rising Strong, Daring Greatly and the Gifts of Imperfection. She is also the Founder and CEO of The Daring Way and COURAGEworks – an online learning community that offers eCourses, workshops, and interviews for individuals and organizations.
Here is a video by Dr. Brown titled What is Hope? The introduction to the video reads: “This is a wonderful video by Brené Brown on the subject of hope and how we can all learn to be hopeful. Watch and learn!” I agree!
I suspect that many of us have experienced hopelessness at some at time and at some level in our lives. A loved one dies. We lose a job. A friend disappoints us. You name it… Well here is an opportunity to listen to a TED TALK by Nick Vujicic. The title is Overcoming Hopelessness. Nick was born in Melbourne, Australia in 1982 to a Serbian immigrant family, without all of his four limbs. During most of his childhood he suffered with depression. It’s hard to even imagine going through life without hands or legs. But Nick decided to “…concentrate on what he did have instead of what he didn’t have.” His first speaking engagement was at age 19. Since then he has traveled around the world “…sharing his story with millions, sometimes in stadiums filled to capacity, speaking to a range of diverse groups…” In 2007 he moved to Southern California where he is president of the international non-profit ministry Life Without Limbs. This is his website and it’s worth checking out.
Three years ago I read one of his books, Life Without Limits. At that time in my life I had just lost my wife from lung cancer and I was grieving her death. As I read what Nick had gone through I was inspired by this exceptional man. He tells the story of his physical disabilities and the emotional battle he endured trying to deal with them as a child, a teen and young adult. As he said in his book, “For the longest, loneliest time, I wondered if there was anyone on earth like me, and whether there was a purpose to my life other than pain and humiliation.” He shares with his readers that his“… faith in God has been his central source of strength… and explains that once he found his own purpose—inspiring others to make their lives and the world better—he found confidence to build a rewarding and productive life without limits.
Even though there are fifty five years between Nick and me, he’s one of my heroes.