The Audacity of Hope
Of course, I’m stealing this title from Barack Obama’s biographical book, The Audacity of Hope: Thoughts on Reclaiming the American Dream. Certainly, he is one of those few politicians worth stealing from. Yet I’m stealing the title not because he is a conspicuously laudable leader, but because it neatly sums up what I have in my mind in writing these lines: the audacity to hope even when there is little to nothing to hope for.
I confess that it has been a long while since I read it last; but I vividly remember that it was more about Obama’s unwavering American nationalism and less about ‘how’ and ‘why’ HOPE is an ineffably driving force, a sustaining power even for the most vulnerable. Of America and its people, for instance, Obama has this to say in the prologue of his Audacity of Hope:
Not only did my encounters with voters confirm the fundamental decency of the American people, they also reminded me that at the core of the American experience are a set of ideals that continue to stir our collective conscience; a common set of values that bind us together despite our differences; a running thread of hope that makes our improbable experiment in democracy work. These values and ideals find expression not just in the marble slabs of monuments or in the recitation of history books. They remain alive in the hearts and minds of most Americans—and can inspire us to pride, duty, and sacrifice.
Earlier I said that the tittle neatly summarizes what I have in mind yet helplessly fail to put into words. If I were a mullah, I would have described it as the unfailing capacity to hold and steadfastly endure even the mounting challenges of ineffable proportion, for they are constant, intermittent tests to be rewarded someday in some way or another. But I’m not a mullah; and even that does not accurately describe the audacity of hoping I’m concerned with.
The closest depiction I can think of is that which calls for a willful, deliberate determination in acknowledging one’s personal responsibility in shaping one’s life or even “writing one’s destiny”. I can surely hear you growling with defiance and disbelief. But, before you crucify me on the altar of spite, hear out what I have to say: Life is generally uncaring and unloving; it can even be brutal as it can be quite intimidating; it is usually full of daunting challenges as it often encompasses seemingly insuperable hurdles.
Indeed, this is where that unwavering power of the audacity of hoping is most needed. When dealing with an uncooperative wind, for instance, only strength and tact can be called upon. When swimming counter-current, energy and swimming agility are most needed to overcome the tidal might; and when threatened, a furious Cape buffalo, unlike a scared turtle, does not hide inward nor does it give in before its last breath. So too, the audacity of hoping amidst challenges is the ability, the conscious and deliberate willingness not to succumb to despair and cynicism.