Lives founded in confidence.
by Andy Soper (B.A. '02)
I have believed for some time that the bottom is going to drop out. I fear that the second law of thermodynamics is true for all things—the foundation of a house, the relationship between lovers, the clear understanding of a passage we've known for centuries. It is all in a steady state of decay. Decay will win.
My profession—if one can call it that—leads me to interact with industries that strip mine humanity. I get paid to work in the wreckage of human trafficking. Colonialism at its finest. Exploit the natural resources. Ascribe a value to the population being subjugated. When finished, assert power on a new caste. Repeat until you are overthrown or colonized yourself.
This is not the land of hope. I'm not sure what can survive there.
I've heard slavery described as an evil tree that will produce fruit unless torn out by the roots. I've even explained it as such. Quick insight: the roots of slavery? Poverty, greed, political corruption, war, natural disasters—these are not going away. They persist like a cancer that feeds on the chemo meant to kill it. Like early AZT used to treat HIV/AIDS, any cure to these problems seems to have terminal side effects.
Hope for a better world in the face of these realities seems irrational. I don't say this in the cliché sense of 'God's wisdom looks like foolishness to man.' I mean it in the most honest way. It makes no sense to hope if hope is just a placebo drug, tricking us into thinking that our dreams will come true (however, beautiful the dream).
However, hope is not irrational. It is thrilling. Deep, abiding hope may not 'believe all things,' but it seems to believe one thing and believe it well. Hope, the dedication to a Kingdom here and yet-to-come, performs in the heart what love may show in public.
I have experienced hope to be ballistic. I have found it to be stubborn and even aggressive. Simply put, hope has shown itself to me as the Kool-Aid Man, crashing through walls because the wall shouldn't exist in the ecstatic (or, perhaps just pleasurable) world he insists he'll find on the other side of the brick and mortar (though I am sure others have heard hope as that still, small voice).
So much attention is paid to love as a lens to see the world, that perhaps hope is just short-changed (though, I'm not attempting to argue over the 'greater of the greatests'). We've heard the words, 'Three things will last forever—faith, hope and love—and the greatest of these is love,' at so many weddings that we fail to think through how that sentence could end.
- '...and the most willful of these is hope.'
- '...but the virtue that gets back up when knocked down repeatedly is hope.'
- '...but hope is why Dietrich Bonhoeffer will someday be the spoke jammed into 'the wheel that crushes'.'
Hope invites me to bear witness to present grief while claiming a promise worth claiming. The hope presented in Advent was born in poverty and served by kings. The hope presented in the Lent season grieves on Friday, is isolated on Saturday but finds joy in the resurrection of Sunday.
Perhaps, hope makes sense only in terms of this absence and fulfillment. My experience with victims of trauma affirms my suspicions—both of physics and hope. The bottom has dropped out and decay creeps forward. But, hope is in the fall. And, hope is in the climb. So, I have been thrilled by this hope in a world, deeply weary.