The difference between hope and despair is a different way of telling stories from the same facts.
At work yesterday we had a planning meeting. We did an exercise where we were asked to envision an optimal future. What could we work on, if we could? We split up into small four or five person groups to discuss and jot down ideas. Remarkably, almost everyone came up with the same thing. Not exactly the same, but the same big conceptual idea. I found it one of the most hopeful things to happen at work in a great while.
In all honesty I’d always felt there was a surprising lack of vision of the future at work. Things just seemed to be terribly pedestrian and practical with very little inspiration. Instead, among my peers, I found a kinship with similar dreams of what we should be doing. It was incredible to see and I left with a new respect and admiration for all of them. Everyone knew going in that the reality of today’s world made these dreams impossible to realize. All of the participants had enough hope to allow themselves to see something more. The downside is that reality is swallowing the capacity to hope and dream for something better.
There is only one thing that makes a dream impossible to achieve: the fear of failure.
This is truly sad considering the transformative potential bound up in those hopeful, unrealistic, dreams we allowed ourselves to express. We could be doing things that are magnificent; instead we withdraw to the world of the possible and bureaucratically controlled, politically viable reality. The projects we hopefully envisioned would be transformative and create a far greater future than the path we are currently on. We are told that the people in Washington can’t envision anything greater either. Perhaps they are just like us, simply unwilling to honestly voice anything greater than our currently pedestrian path.
Everyone must dream. We dream to give ourselves hope. To stop dreaming – well, that’s like saying you can never change your fate. Isn’t that true?
― Amy Tan
This is why the future is so bleak; the dreams are there, but no one has faith that these dreams can be realized. Support for working on the dream is missing, why start something that will never be finished? People have recently realized that the future was supposed to bring flying cars and instead we got mini-supercomputers in our pockets (that do very little computing). Of course it doesn’t quite look like “Blade Runner” or “Minority Report” either. The problem is that it looks like the dystopian parts of those movies have a greater chance of reality than the cool parts.
The thing that binds us together is that we have both lowered our expectations of life
This is the point of despair. We could be so much more than we are; instead we are so much less than we could be.
When a man is in despair, it means that he still believes in something.