High hopes compelled the kids to run to the Christmas tree piled high with presents. The sad wife hoped her dead soldier-husband would revive. Everyone in the crowd hoped they had the winning lottery ticket.

Are there different kinds or levels of hope?

Hope, like faith, can be rational or irrational. I hope to buy a nice car after working all year versus hoping to turn into an eagle because I leave a written prayer under the church door for nine days in a row. (Yes, I admit, I fell for that when I was a kid.)

Like the crisp, gentle dawn after a stormy night, hope can rise gradually or it can be dumped on us all at once after winning the lottery. Either way, hope gives us a future focus, an anticipation that today will be better than yesterday, and tomorrow will be better than today. Hope is belief wrapped in the emotion of anticipation. Hope is faith wrapped in desire, even if we’re tired.

Why do you get out of bed in the morning? "Because I have to." Why do you have to? "Because I need to work and earn money." Why? "So I can spend it." Granted, your work may be boring, even painful, but you work each day to earn money to provide for you (and possibly others) the things that hopefully will sustain, protect, entertain, and give you joy and comfort. Hope, however dim, however vague and ill-defined, drives us to survive and to wait for something better. At a minimum, hope keeps us alive.

Can we survive without hope?

But what happens when tomorrow turns out worse than today? We tend to sink into despair and refuse to hope. With Alexander Pope we say, “Blessed is he who expects nothing, for he shall never be disappointed.” This attitude hardens our hearts and darkens our days and darkens the lives of those around us. We run the risk of being caught in the vortex of negative self-fulfilling prophecies.

When all hope is gone we just roll over and wait for death, or hastily commit suicide. (This is why we must really listen when we ask, How are you? Also, if you or someone you know is suicidal, seek help.) Why continue into the future when we perceive nothing better in the future? As we see the physical, political, and psychological world breaking down around us, it is important that we find a light in the dark tunnel that will lead us to the opening.

Hope's strong emotional component makes it difficult to precisely define, but the difference between feelings of hope versus hopelessness are easy to tell. Dictionaries list "despair" as an antonym of "hope." Is despair the negative opposite of hope or the draining of hope to the zero level? Or is it the shifting of hope from something to nothing because nothing is better than something worse?

What about selfish hope at the expense of others’ hope?

In other words, if I step on you to make my way up the ladder is that positive or negative? I think we would all agree it is negative. The most positive hope is universal where I hope the best for everyone. However, if my survival negates your survival, then my hope negates your hope. In these situations it is hard to even call it hope. Sometimes the will to survive is mere selfishness when the living crawl callously over the dying. Yet, it is a sort of hope—for the survivor.

We all seem to have this gut-level, rock-bottom survival instinct, which is hope at its minimum, but it often gets us through. We have no idea why we continue through the suffering, abuse, and terrible odds, but there seems to be this dim foggy light in the heart of each of us that points the way forward and urges us onward. Why? We often don't know. We just go… hoping, always hoping.

Eternal, infinite hope

The fundamental premise of this book is that we want eternity. The human condition is a quest for a way up, a way out, and a way forward — without end. No one wants to die, not even depressed people. We all want to live and grow and share happiness together. Therefore, our goal in this book is to find a way above and beyond death to truly live.

Eternity! Infinite time. Endless ages.

A sun always on the rise, never falling into dark.

Fountain of youth. Tree of life. Immortality.

Ever feeling fresh in the glory of unending morning.

Heaven. Nirvana. Paradise. Valhalla. Promised land.

Swords into plowshares. Lions lay down with lambs.

Peace. Contentment. Safety.

We want it. We yearn for it.

More than mere gazing at the stars,

we want to live among the galaxies

and pick flowers on other worlds.

We want to be one with the universe

and the universe to be one, forever.

Quotes and Questions

"The capacity for hope is the most significant fact of life. It provides human beings with a sense of destination and the energy to get started." (Norman Cousins)

“Optimism is the faith that leads to achievement. Nothing can be done without hope and confidence.” (Helen Keller)

Nelson Mandela spent 27 years in prison for his fight against apartheid in South Africa. Four years after his release, apartheid was dismantled and he was elected president. He said, “I am fundamentally an optimist. Whether that comes from nature or nurture, I cannot say. Part of being optimistic is keeping one's head pointed toward the sun, one's feet moving forward. There were many dark moments when my faith in humanity was sorely tested, but I would not and could not give myself up to despair. That way lays defeat and death.”

“A leader is a dealer in hope.” (Napoleon)

“You may say I'm a dreamer, but I'm not the only one. I hope someday you'll join us. And the world will live as one.” (John Lennon) How does hope give birth to dreams? How do dreams relate to goals?

“Blessed is he who expects nothing, for he shall never be disappointed.” (Alexander Pope) Can there be hope without risk of disappointment?

“My life is a perfect graveyard of buried hopes.” (Anne of Green Gables) Who could have phrased this better then the queen of drama herself?! What level of hope was she feeling?

"Hope is being able to see that there is light despite all of the darkness." (Desmond Tutu)

"We must accept finite disappointment, but never lose infinite hope." (Martin Luther King, Jr.)