Hope is proportionate to our willingness to go to work to solve problems. Diversity and creativity are key to problem solving and therefore to hope overcoming despair.

I abide by eco-philosopher David Orr’s definition of hope: “Hope is a verb with the sleeves rolled up.”  Hope is proportionate to our willingness to go to work to solve problems.  Diversity and creativity are key to problem solving and therefore to hope overcoming despair.

“Group of bikers feed the less fortunate in my Northeast Washington, D.C. neighborhood.” Photo by Joseph Young on Flickr.

Psychologist Otto Rank teaches that “pessimism comes from the repression of creativity.”  Where creativity rises, pessimism (and despair) diminish.  A new administration hints of creativity and new questions asked and new solutions offered.

Julian of Norwich, who lived through the most devastating plague in European history, understandably has much to say about hope and despair. 

For Julian, the search for and memory of goodness is primal. From goodness there arises both love and hope–after all, all love is a response to goodness (or at least to what we perceive as goodness). This is its attraction.https://www.youtube.com/embed/BqkzTUofUyk?feature=oembedMusic that Makes Community leaders from around the United States join in a collaborative version of Ana Hernandez’s powerful layered song, “Hold My Hope.” Uploaded to YouTube by Music that Makes Community.

To speak of goodness is to speak of love, and vice versa. It is a way of seeing the world, for beyond love lies goodness.  Joy is integral to hope, for “a person who is joyful has greater hope,” observes Thomas Aquinas.  Practicing the via positiva is an important way to keeping hope alive.

Goodness, as Julian insists, can be found everywhere in nature. And where it is missing in human nature, it is our task to make it right again, to bring it alive in ourselves and others.

Julian counsels us to face our despair and feelings of helplessness. She encourages us to roll up our sleeves and get to work—to do both our inner work and our outer work, our spiritual work and our political work, our mystical and our prophetic work.


Adapted from Matthew Fox, Julian of Norwich: Wisdom in a Time of Pandemic—and Beyond, pp. 97-99.

See “1st jobless report of 2021: US unemployment claims remain high as 787,000 file for aid” on News Nation Now, 1/7/2021.

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