We are often surprised by human’s ability to withstand almost anything. Hunger, poverty, torture, persecution. Our capacity to endure all this is often times based on the hope of a better future. When caught up in bad situations, we tend to imagine ourselves in situations that are dramatically improved. We, as humans, might not be very good at identifying the right solutions to our problems or even what the right problems are, but we are extremely good at thinking that they might one day disappear. Hope moves us forward.
When thinking about how happy or satisfied we are with out lives, we often think about how our lives have gotten better over how good they are. The immigrant who came from nothing to make a new life somewhere else is more satisfied than their neighbor who’s had a good life all his life. The immigrant can see a trajectory by which his life has already gotten better and will possibly continue doing so. This satisfaction found in the story of our lives is forever. Material conditions are not.
People criticize and even get offended by millionaires trying to become billionaires. Why would you do that? Aren’t they happy with what they have? But a self-made millionaire was never thinking about trying to be in a “good” place. The millionaire was always just trying to make everything better. Continuing to do so is only natural and logically consistent. The feeling of constantly improving his situation trumps the situation he currently has.
When travelling, an interesting thing to do is to ask someone if things are getting “better”. If things are good or not will be apparent by just walking around. But asking anyone if things are getting better will bring up incredible excitement or great disappointment. The person in a developing country who feels that their situation is getting better will always seems happier than the person from a much more developed country who feels the opposite.
Hope is nothing more than the believe that time is on your side. Given enough time, things will change for the better and all we have to do is sit around and wait. Hope in the future is much sweeter than any current situation and past hope, lived in the present sweeter still.