Applied Hope in a Dark World


It’s been a strange week. The images of the North Korean leader meeting with a USA President for the first time in history seemed surreal, somehow not able to be believed. Yet it was happening. We were just in Singapore on Sentosa Island, the site of the meeting, a few months ago, and knowing Singapore so well somehow brought it even closer. No matter where you stand politically in relation to President Trump, it is a welcome thing when two sides are talking instead of threatening imminent war.

For many in East Asia and the United States, and most of the world, the meeting brought hope. There are many steps ahead, and many are rightly skeptical of what actual steps North Korea will take to come out of isolation. Much hard work lies ahead on all sides, and much prayer should continue to go on. But for now, hope is real and it is being applied to one of the most difficult areas of conflict in the world.

I love that phrase, ‘applied hope‘. Hope to me is such an amazing word, a word I want to shout out when the deep sadness of deaths like Anthony Bourdain happened in this past crazy week. By one definition, hope is the ‘confident expectation of something good happening, of a promise being fulfilled.’ It is not just optimism, or positive thinking. Hope is based in something, on a foundation of a promise or solid character. As a follower of Christ, I base my hope on the eternal faithfulness and lovingkindness of God. There is hope even in the darkest hours.

Yet to think of hope being applied to situations in the present and leading into the future somehow lessens just a bit of that darkness. Recently I was reading a book by Thomas Friedman, the New York Times columnist, called Thank You for Being Late. (See my last post Objects in Future are Closer than They Appear). On page 533, he quotes Amory Lovins, who when asked if he is a optimist or pessimist says: ‘I am neither an optimist not a pessimist, because they are each just different forms of fatalism that treat the future as fate and not choice-and absolve you from taking responsibility for creating the future that you want. I believe in applied hope.’ (emphasis mine.)

Applied Hope is a beautiful way of saying that hope is not just an airy-fairy concept that floats in the air. It is a robust way of thinking, feeling and living that can change not only our own mental constructs but also the world around us. Applied Hope happens most commonly (and yet unfortunately too rarely) when enemies connect in new ways that bring them towards new paradigms of relationship. Friedman also relates how Facebook in 2016, as part of a new initiative called ‘A world of friends’, began to track specifically the number of connections on its site made by perceived enemies.

The results were amazing. On just one day, it had tracked the connections of 2,031,779 people from India and Pakistan, 154,260 from Israel and Palestine, and 137,182 from Russia and Ukraine. On a social media site like Facebook, this many people representing countries or areas that are sworn enemies had connected in some way. Perhaps many were passing contacts, and not strong friendships or strong threats, but still it is an amazing sign of people-to-people contact happening. This is applied hope. 

Applied hope is hope that is not left with the individual, but reaches out to neighborhoods and cities around us. It can come into the most protracted level of global conflict, like North Korea or India-Pakistan, or into any family relationship. We might say that applied hope is the confident expectation together that good will come. Applied hope is hoping together, in community, that things do not have to be so dark anymore. And the most intense problems require solutions that are collective, starting perhaps with one social reformer, but not ending there.

After a crazy week of sadness and a strange meeting in Singapore, one would dare to hope that the world can be different. But applying that hope must start with us today.

(image of hope from velveteenrabbi.blogs)

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