Hope by Vaclav Havel: Reading and Meditation

June 2, 2020  • Todd Breyfogle

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Hope, Vaclav Havel


Where is one to find hope in the midst of hopelessness? Elsewhere. Hope cannot come from hopelessness, it finds its wellsprings from outside. Hope, says Vaclav Havel, transcends the world and is anchored somewhere beyond its horizons. But to look up and out, beyond the radius of one’s vision to the vistas of the horizon, is rarely easy. If Havel is right, hope requires perspective, and the walls of hopelessness deprive us of the perspective we need.

Havel distinguishes hope from optimism—the confidence that things will turn out well. Rather, hope depends not upon the outcome of circumstances, but the goodness of the cause, despite the consequences. And if this is true, then perhaps hope is present all along. Hope Havel says, is “an ability to work for something because it is good, not just because it stands a chance to succeed.” 

What does it mean to cultivate hope as a state of mind, not of the world? What are the horizons to which you look—not for optimism, which may be a false or superficial hope, but for the source of righteousness?  What are the wellsprings of your conviction that the cause is good, that the defense of goodness is enough to sustain you when the times are not propitious? The “breathtaking dimension of the human spirit and its efforts” comes from elsewhere. Breathe it, deeply, against the forces that want to take away the breath of hope.

Todd Breyfogle, Denver, Colorado

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