Whenever I find myself pondering meanings, I am confronted with the false dichotomy of hidden versus overt, as if we are lost in a maze of blind dualism that presents things and meanings in abhorrent opposition or excessive contrast. What does hope truly mean? What is the nature of living with hope or waiting for it? How does it coexist eternally with despair? Both hope and despair play the game of life for and against humanity.
Are we doomed to hope, as playwright Saadallah Wannous once said? Or are we plagued by it, as Lebanese poet Abbas Beydoun once mentioned to me, when sadness poured into poems that lamented an oppressed Arab reality. This was in the Cairo of glory, when glory had many conquerors in politics, literature, and life.
Perhaps the word "hope" always refers to dreams that rekindle the soul and conscience, like worn-out masks for the shortcomings of life. These dreams sleep under our pillows next to the meekness of the oppressed over the unfair arrangements of life.
We cling to hope because we cannot admit to disappointment and powerlessness. It is the wand with which we smash the bumps in the road and the soul in difficult times resulting from marginalization, exclusion, and obliteration. It grows like the shadow of an old tree, full of history, but without fruit. How can the shadow produce fruit without disappointment or a magic spell from a grandmother?
As Lebanese historian and writer Fawwaz Traboulsi once explained, we are plagued by an incurable hope. Nostalgia often prompts us to examine this painful hope, much like how we close our doors and windows at night to keep out unwanted visitors, be they human or supernatural. Our fear of change and the truth often drives us to rely on wishful thinking and false reconciliation, as a psychological coping mechanism when we feel desperate and have lost faith in hope itself. We become like a snowball, growing heavier and bigger as we propel forward without questioning our actions or succumbing to temptations that might disturb our inner peace.
But we must nurture hope, like the fragrance of a lily spreading its whiteness across our souls and the universe, restoring the joy, reassurance, and cosmic peace that has been lost amidst war, conflict, and inequality. Hope must endure as a tool of resistance, not servility, despair, or frustration. It is our immunity against brokenness and a shield that guards our humanity from the ugliness and falsehoods that surround us day and night.
Hope should have been a comforting solace that lifted us out of the depths of despair and led us towards new paths, unencumbered by the troubles of the past and future. It should have promised us a brighter future, full of justice, equality, and peace for all individuals and nations. However, it has left us feeling deceived and suspicious because it has failed to deliver on its promises. The shattered hope of achieving justice, equality, and peace has rendered everything else meaningless and useless.
It may seem as though there is nothing left to inspire hope and prevent us from falling apart. In fact, this lack of hope may be our greatest strength, as it shields us from disappointment and despair. We have succumbed to a trap of despair that is strangely comforting. It does not ask us to fight, hope, argue, or wait. It is a self-sufficient state that grants us immunity against breaking and collapsing. It allows us to be ourselves without self-condemnation or blame, providing us with deeper insights and a clearer view of the world.
Throughout our lives, our souls and spirits have walked different paths, some easy, and some challenging. Yet, they have always clung to the tails of hope, like a merciful mother spreading her love through the veins of time. Hope makes life seem beautiful, promising new paths paved with fragrant roses, even if they are miserable and false.
But our prayers alone cannot open the gates of heaven, and hope can convince us that life is beautiful enough to dream of salvation, whether it is real or not. Hope can also be a slow death, but even in the absence of hope, our voices will roam the streets, greeting passers-by and collecting old wishes, delaying dreams that have fallen by the wayside. We must continue to fight for liberty, justice, beauty, and love, even if disappointment lies hidden in the depths of our emotions.
Despair as an elegy for hope:
A wise man once cautioned us to beware of long hopes, for those who become consumed by hope may be disappointed by their own actions. Fleeting hopes give us the illusion of salvation and empower us to confront a world that has become increasingly imperfect and negative. It is essential to acknowledge that we are often in positions of disappointment rather than positions of disappointment to others. Hope is like the bird of Minerva, elusive and fleeting.
Al-Tughra’i once said, "I beguile my soul with hopes, and keep watch for them. How straitened life would be if it were not for the wide plain of hope!" Like a magician's wand, hope cultivates the forbidden and makes the impossible possible. Many believe that to be happy, one only needs three things: someone to love, something to do, and something to hope for. It is through hope that humans can accomplish incredible feats and find the strength to recover again and again.
Despair, hope's companion, imparts a great gift to us: boldness. It rekindles hope, urging our souls to embark on new, different, and even rebellious paths. Hope is both a revolution against prevailing circumstances and submission to them at the same time. It fills the void in our humanity and drives us forward.
Hope reaches towards the horizon of light, resonating with the echoes of our inner voice that are often silenced by transient suffering. A generation may share this suffering, trapped in a linguistic, psychological, and political game that lashes out at the self, the other, and the homeland. They may find themselves unable to break free from the fetishistic control over their destinies, leading to enslavement. However, it is important to be wary of the dangers of destroying idols in the search for hope, which may turn into an idolatrous project in itself.
True hope is rooted in knowledge and certainty, leading to salvation and providing a mysterious joy that helps us overcome difficulties and losses. It is akin to the bird of Minerva, spreading the wings of wisdom at dusk, when reality becomes clearer and deeper.
Despair, on the other hand, offers a different value. It allows us to live on the banks of time, peering into details and deriving meaning without falling under the guillotine of consumption, energy-draining, and the burden of answering questions about salvation and existence. It grants us forgiveness for the sins we did not commit, but have inherited and strive to forget and erase.
Continuously searching for hope as part of our remaining repertoire, we contemplate the meanings of life and its expenses, mourning loss, disease, and absence. We fly towards the splendor of surprises and love stories, hoping that future generations will find them even more fulfilling and hopeful.