More on Hope

I am back to hope, a subject that is driving me crazy. I cannot decide if hope is very simple or crazy complicated. Maybe hope is merely what you wish for. Whether the end result is a sure thing or long shot, maybe hope is a way for a person to comfort himself or herself, waiting for an outcome. Why does hope have to be linked to faith? Can’t an atheist hope for something good to come to someone? I think hope can exist in a secular realm. Why not?
People of faith can be creatures of orthodoxy. Organized religion is orthodoxy and gives away faith. Faith is a wonderful quality, that is, if you have it and really believe. There is a tension between faith and reason. Read the great philosophers. Some believe the two do not contradict each other, that each has its proper place. I dis- agree. I believe faith and reason compete, and in that contest, faith wins every time because believers accept what their faith tells them, a priori. The verdict is in.
Fair enough. But if secular hope exists, why can’t I find it? It seems as if I, as a non-believer, have conceded hope to the faithful. Damn. I want a piece of the action, but I cannot get there, which must mean I do not really want it. Am I making any sense? The cynic in me thinks hope is only a way to harness that which no human can control. I do make myself crazy.
And I am in the early stages of a book, written about hope from a patient perspective. Good luck.

39 Responses to More on Hope

  1. mary kathleen October 28, 2014 at 5:53 pm #

    Heard a quote years ago – “it’s not the despair that gets us, it’s the hope”. At some point, maybe we stop hoping because of the relentless disappointments. Many people with religious faith will only pray for grace, not for a solution.

    • Linda Lazarus October 28, 2014 at 6:27 pm #

      Richard, the stem cell experiment in which you participate seems, to me, to be a gloriously reasoned secular act of Hope.

  2. Sandy October 28, 2014 at 6:39 pm #

    I don’t know that hope relies on faith as much as it does patience. I am hopeful but I run short on patience sometimes and give up my desire for something good to come my way (hope). I think it comes from the chronic part of the illness. Hope or not its not going away.

    We can hope to feel better or in your case that our treatment will work and we will actually be better. But for most of us hoping is just our way of trying to stay sane along side a chronic illness that gives nothing and takes whatever it wants.

    All that being said….I am a hopeful person who hopes that better treatment and a cure are out there….just beyond our grasp but out there still.


  3. Nik October 28, 2014 at 7:05 pm #

    I am not a deep thinker, so I won’t be of much help. But, I am a non believer who hopes for a whole lot of things. Married to a very faithful person who seems quite content in his belief and I am often jealous of that. I hope that the find cures for all the diseases in the world, but my hope is often squashed by the hard realities in life. Having just attended the conference in NYC given by the Tisch folks, I went in with a whole lot of hope, but came out with dispair. I was hoping to hear something and when I didn’t hear what I wanted, then I got discouraged. That feeling has since passed, but it makes me think that if hope can change on a dime like that, than it is all too much like religion for me. Meaning that , like my husband says, I’m a believer when it’s convenient.

    I don’t think that made any sense to anyone but me. Oh well, I tried. Wishing you best of luck with your book.

  4. Rosanne October 28, 2014 at 7:06 pm #

    I found this on a website when asking: “what is the difference between hope and faith”..I especially liked this man’s answer:

    There are too many people who have faith, but don’t understand why they are so sad and depressed. A lot of times it’s because they don’t have any hope to inspire and activate that faith.

    On the other hand, I’ve also met people who were sad and depressed because they hoped for many things, but had faith for none.

    Hope and faith are like two interconnected links of the same chain. Together, they bridge the gap between the life we have and the life we desire. – Jeremy Binns

  5. Linda Lazarus October 28, 2014 at 8:07 pm #

    Actually, this topic seems pointless to ponder. Why does it concern you so? It seems that people have or do not have a hopeful outlook in life. No matter the reasoning…secular or not…hope seems to be a state of mind.

    If you lack hope then perhaps there are strategies to do that flood your mind with it. Religion, yoga, marathon running, reading books….each of us finds the trick that satisfies. Is hope the same thing as happiness? If not, what is the difference?

    • Cynde November 2, 2014 at 6:34 pm #

      I agree with you. I have a hopeful outlook on life, though I am a non-believer and I have a chronic disease. The more physical ability I lose, the more I rely on the things I can still do – reading, writing, cooking – to provide the sense of purpose we all need in life.

  6. Brian October 28, 2014 at 8:14 pm #

    Why does hope have to be linked to faith? I guess it matters what kind of faith you’re talking about. I too am a nonbeliever, and yet I’m full of hope. My faith lies not In religion, but rather human tenacity. We humans are a very persistent bunch. We don’t handle failure well. As recently as 50 years ago or so, the concept of organ transplants was pure science-fiction. Now the process of swapping hearts and livers is somewhat routine. This was made possible by our refusal to accept failure. Of course while we’re pretty good at transplants, we still have a lot to learn about the Central Nervous System. But I have faith that the trajectory of our biological knowledge will continue to soar. I truly believe this illness and many others will be conquered. For me, it’s more of a timing issue. As in, will it happen in time to help me. But hope is hope. And I’ll just keep hoping, even from my wheelchair, that some timely progress will be made. And if it’s not, I will have lived my life with some sunshine on the horizon instead of darkness. I’ll take that.

    • Laura October 30, 2014 at 1:04 pm #

      Thank you Brian for the transplant example, Hope that I can be healthy enough to be “cured”
      CCSVI was the fantasy for me, after I got the procedure I wanted it to cure me. Was in denial for 6 months. Wanted to dance in high heels.
      I am thankful for my life my family my friends and I have hope.

    • Cynde November 2, 2014 at 6:35 pm #

      I agree with you. Thanks for your eloquent essay.

  7. Vikki Iannucci October 28, 2014 at 9:09 pm #

    I am not religious anymore, because I do not have faith in anything which cannot be seen or scientifically proven. I think there is too much pain and hurt in the world to feel faith in anything. However, for me personally, I do have hope. I hope every day of my life that my 17 year old daughter will not develop Multiple Sclerosis as I did at her age. I hope that my brother, who has psioratic arthritis, will one day find a way to ease his pain. I hope to get through my current relapse with not too much permanent disability. I hope for many things. I think life without hope is not living, although I don’t see faith as necessary. That being said, I have a huge respect for friends who truly have faith and for the beliefs they hold so strongly.

  8. Louise October 28, 2014 at 9:19 pm #

    I am having many different thoughts about your topic – I almost feel like I could write a book about it. One of the thoughts I have is that if one has anxiety about something, he also has hope. Sometimes I feel overwhelmed by the anxiety of what may happen to me in terms of disease progression yet I realize that implies my hope that it will not happen. If I had no hope I would feel despair, resignation, and aha hopelessness rather than anxiety, just a thought, I am a non believer and I feel like the randomness of the universe allows me the most hope, Anything could happen….or not. I certainly do not think “everything happens for a reason” , unless “just because ” counts as a reason, When I find myself thinking “why me?” I have faith that the answer is ” no reason”. And I hope that that is true!

    • Yvonne October 28, 2014 at 10:57 pm #

      @Louise-love your response. I struggle with hope vs. reality vs. faith. Does hope mean I live on the edge of reality? Does faith mean the belief in fairy tales? Do I accept the reality of illness without hope or faith? I’m still trying to figure out how to face the challenges of this ever changing disease. I know the inner me is the same but MS has made me question my ability to cope with change as the outer me transforms and I can’t control the transformation. As a result my ability to hope has been effected. I’ve never really been a fairytale kind of girl. Too many religions with too many stories to say faith is an option for me. Reality is complicated but the knowledge that “it is what it is” gives me comfort.

  9. MB October 28, 2014 at 10:27 pm #

    This agnostic (a cowardly atheist) is sitting in a hospital room right now hoping to hell that this chemotherapy that is being infused into her body will tame this beast for awhile longer.

    Fingers crossed…not stepping on sidewalk cracks, or walking under ladders.They are all our “just in case” insurance policies. I think that’s what faith is, too. The secular and non-secular are doing the same thing with faith and hope, just covering the bases just in case there’s something to these actions and beliefs.

    Good luck with the book, Richard. If the Westboro Church protests at one of your book signings, or if Pope Francis asks for a signed copy, then it will be a guaranteed best seller. 🙂

    • MB October 31, 2014 at 10:01 pm #

      Chemo complete. Will it buy me some non-progressive time? Wouldn’t go through that without hope of a positive outcome.

      I guess I believe there’s something called rational hope. I didn’t embark on the chemo regime blindly, but after researching it and asking experts numerous questions and getting answers I could live with, I felt there was a possibility that it to work for me. Proceeding rationally and cautiously is a far cry from blind hope, but that’s all I have in me.

  10. Lisa October 28, 2014 at 11:42 pm #

    Some people believe that hope was the only thing in Pandora’s box — the evil thing she released on the world. This was Nietschze’s position.

  11. Brian October 29, 2014 at 1:07 am #

    Holocaust survivor, Halina Birenbaum penned a poignant memoir called, Hope Is The Last To Die. A must read for anyone stuck on the fence about faith.

    • Richard November 1, 2014 at 3:05 pm #

      Just ordereed it.



      • Brian November 13, 2014 at 8:25 pm #

        I hope (no pun intended) you are enjoying this book. It’s not exactly a Disney sorta feel good piece but you can see hope and faith intertwined. Please post something if you are moved to do so.

  12. Sandra Schneider October 29, 2014 at 9:45 am #

    Hope and faith can be dangerous if there are no facts to support them. Many a person with MS has used these coping mechanisms only to be devastated when reality comes and pulls away the beanstalk. The crash can be harsher than dealing with reality in the first place. And unless a person is truly mentally ill, trying to keep up the illusion of unbridled optimism can take a lot of energy-something us MSers have none of. On the other hand, if hope and faith are supported by fact, then there is no illusion But, if hope and faith are justified they are not needed in the first place.

  13. Amy Corcoran-Hunt October 29, 2014 at 11:00 am #

    Athiest here. But hopeful. I am doing Dr Wahls’ Paleo diet and neuromuscular stimulation, and waiting with high hope for your stem cell trial to show some results. At the same time, I had a cool power wheelchair delivered yesterday so I can Trick or Treat with the spouse and toddler without worry or too much physical challenge. I guess I bounce between dealing with reality and leaving the door open for amazing change. I keep two sets of books: one reality, one “wouldn’t it be nice?”

    • Jan October 29, 2014 at 1:53 pm #

      Good for you with that power chair, Amy. Am thinking of the same so I can again go on “walks” with my husband. It has taken me a long time to try to realize that “it is what it is.” And while I’ll likely always fight reality in my mind, I’m also finally starting to realize that I’m in the driver’s seat in how I choose to allow myself to be treated. If I think positively about who I am, MS will not define who I am. I don’t look negatively upon others in the ways that I imagine others could of me. So I should not act or think that way.

      • Amy Corcoran-Hunt October 29, 2014 at 5:22 pm #

        Thank you and go for it, Jan. I’ve been left out of too many things, for two years now. I’m lucky to have a little family that wants me there. Pride has done nothing for me but leave me sitting at home. Goodbye to all that.

  14. David October 29, 2014 at 1:29 pm #

    I believe that anyone can have faith and hope too.No religion can give you either in my opinion.I am christian so you know what I believe in most, it gives me so much comfort.
    I also believe that a person can have faith in themselves no matter what there belief is in .I also think a person that does not believe in a higher power really would like to.
    I think that faith is a gift and hope is complicated , just like all of us!
    What a great idea for a book, good luck Richard.

  15. Jan October 29, 2014 at 1:47 pm #

    Richard, you’ve brought up the “hope” topic again–the “litmus test” for me today, with a week of rather horrid, daunting pain, walking/wrist weakness, dizziness, vision stuff. Very scary. Two months ago MS was tolerable. Now it is daunting.

    The topic reminds me of a recent Sun. sermon I heard mentioning three options for hope:
    1. Hopelessness;
    2. Hope in perishable things (wealth, appearance, health); or
    3. In Christ.

    My take:
    1. Who wants to live that way? (Ick. Not I.)
    2. Easy to hope when things are getting better. Not so easy with progressing or
    challenging issues. I know people whose spouses have died (way too early);
    husbands have abandoned them; children are unhealthy. If “hope” means
    getting it all my way, then I’m in trouble, indeed. “If/then.” “IF I get better, then
    having hope is worth it.” “IF there is a cure, a light at the end of the tunnel, I can
    hope.” (Sure, I hope for that; who wouldn’t?) “But IF not, then what?”
    3. In what, or in whom, do I hope? For me, it’s in the Bible, in Christ–the true light
    at the end of my ever-narrowing tunnel.

    Let’s face facts. We are ALL going to die: the unhealthy, the healthy, the rich, the poor, the married, the single, the employed, the unemployed, the famous (ahem–
    you can’t truly deny that), the not-so-famous.

    I know Christians who are grateful after hoping and then things got better. (Who wouldn’t?) But what if things don’t work out so neatly for me? Did I not hope enough or in the right way? No, it’s often simply out of my control. (Yes, I try stuff-diet, exercise, etc.–I “hope” that those things will help). But ultimately, my “hope” may be unseen, and that is where true faith enters in.

    So what is my purpose here? What do I do with what I’ve learned? How can I serve others amidst so much strife? I do not personally know anyone I can talk with right here and now who has really died and come back, someone who can say, “Hang in there; you’ll see why.”

    What I do have, and trust in, are God’s promises. They give meaning, comfort. and inspiration. Is it easy? (Not always. Not even often, lately). Do I understand it all? (No). There are two ways to live. I chose to not live on my own terms. (In a way, that’s easier, actually–gives a greater purpose to about everything).

    • Jan October 30, 2014 at 4:21 pm #

      I had coffee today with two Muslim friends in the home of one. We all spoke candidly, yet respectfully, about “hope” and a few matters of religion. I learned from them, not from the negativity I see on TV that too often lately seems to define for all. In many ways, we are not so different (we do part thoughts in a critical area–but respectfully so).

      Although I am quite certain that some Christian friends would firmly criticize me for saying this, all I see myself doing is saying what I personally believe, what inspires me, why and in whom I hope; responses are very individual, personal, and beyond my control. (Politics and religion–hot topics as always).

  16. Candy October 29, 2014 at 1:59 pm #

    To me, the complexity of hope depends on the situation. It’s simple when it involves something trivial like “I hope the prime rib is on special”. Hope gets crazy complicated when it deals with the health and/or well being of ourselves or loved ones. That’s when shit gets real! The faith versus reason tug of war is non-stop. Unless someone has 100% faith then faith doesn’t always win. I almost wish I wasn’t a believer and then I wouldn’t wrestle with feeling guilty for lacking total faith. Seems a situation could deteriorate quickly if you piss off God. Richard, you nailed the definition of hope: only way to harness that which no human can control. We can attain most wants/hopes if we work hard but that’s not the case with health. The lack of control is maddening. Maybe hope is rationalizing away the cruelties of life.

  17. DianeT October 29, 2014 at 9:11 pm #

    Long time listener, first time writer. Here are a few of my favorite quotes about hope:

    “We dream to give ourselves hope. To stop dreaming – well, that’s like saying you can

    never change your fate.” Amy Tan, The Hundred Secret Senses

    “We must accept finite disappointment, but never lose infinite hope”. Martin Luther King, Jr.

    “There is no medicine like hope, no incentive so great, and no tonic so powerful as

    expectation of something tomorrow.” Orison Swett Marden

  18. Matthew H October 30, 2014 at 12:52 pm #

    I sat in my favorite Upper West Side coffee shop that goes by the name Starbucks. I go there for the free wifi and it’s free wifi. Ive noticed a few regulars, all of whom fit the stereotype of UWS curmudgeon. At the worse time of the day this group will come together and discuss politics and real estate. “Cuomo’s the better of two evils” “The post is garbage” “Buy don’t rent”. The normal nicities that rarely varies. This morning however the subject of multiple sclerosis came up, and I couldn’t help but put off my work to indulge in they’re banter. The subject was how mercury is the sole cause for multiple sclerosis. It became a huge argument between a dentist, and an opera singer both long retired. The opera singer claimed she read it in a book and that it is scientific fact. After 5 minutes of debate with zero factual evidence she stormed off in anger. Oddly enough these characters made my day. I like to think I am based in reason. I always preferred what Aristole said, “All I know is that I know nothing.” I have m.s. , but having M.S. does not make me an expert on the subject. Sure, I believe I know more on the subject then these starbucks scholars, but rather then fueling the fire, I simply picked up the post, glanced through page six, laughed through the Deblasio bashing, and read my horoscope. I hope I get things done today, I have faith that I won’t.

    • marvin November 1, 2014 at 10:04 pm #

      I love that….I might actually paint that on a board and hang it up. I hope I get things done today, I have faith that I won’t.

  19. Mike J October 30, 2014 at 5:00 pm #

    I heard a really smart guy who has had MS for a long time once say something like, our prognosis is a one-way street. There is no better. If we don’t get worse that is a win.
    How are you suppose to find hope in that?
    I not saying the sky is falling, but it’s not all sunshine and roses.

  20. Wendygilmo October 30, 2014 at 5:07 pm #

    To me…. Hope is a four letter word. I want it, but it can hurt.

    • Wendygilmo October 30, 2014 at 5:21 pm #

      In other words … I don’t want to say hope out loud.

  21. mary October 30, 2014 at 7:05 pm #

    I would love to send you a book called HQ The Hope Quotient. If you have an office address please private email me. The book will change your view on Hope and Faith…..or maybe it will clear up the lingering questions as to how they can be of use in our lives, especially because of the hardships we endure every day.
    I love this blog. Thank you

  22. Louise October 30, 2014 at 10:22 pm #

    Second comment so I will be brief. I just got back from a public radio talk where the topic turned to progress in minority rights. One speaker addressed the difference between hope and optimism. Optimism, he said, must be based on some kind of evidence, hope is more of a vague wish. I realized when it comes to MS. I do have hope, but I am not optimistic. That’s what you meant, Richard, you are can’t find optimism? We need some successes in treatment or progress toward cure.

  23. Stacey October 31, 2014 at 7:09 pm #

    I’m a life long atheist, and pride myself on my pragmatism in most matters. Yet, while not filled with hope, I do have hope. This strikes me as being totally illogical, but it is there. Perhaps it is yet another symptom of my MS.

  24. Hannah November 2, 2014 at 4:13 pm #

    So RMC is really smart and he knows all this stuff about faith and hope, but I’m gonna throw in some words anyway. A spiritual but not religious human being is talking here. I have a BFA from NYU-Tisch in Film & TV Production which did not help my philosophical skills, but I can mix sound and eat craft services like you wouldn’t believe


    Still recovering from that era of my life…but you know, it is so good to tell yourself the truth!!

    I believe hope is born from the acceptance of our own personal situation.

    Hope can be all kinds of things not related to faith, or even based on faith, like:
    – I hope my dog doesn’t chew up those new shoes
    – I hope it snows today so I can sit by the fire and not feel guilty
    – I hope I have enough milk in the fridge for tomorrow morning’s coffee
    – I hope my parents love me and are happy with the things I’ve accomplished in my life even though I think I’ve failed in many ways
    – I hope to have children someday, and I hope they will love me even though I will inevitably make mistakes

    I love this blog and RMC’s books, especially because it’s not sugar coated. So thrilled to hear there is another book in the works. KEEP TYPING!!!!!!

    Can I bring up denial in context with hope/faith? I think it relates to the posed question of hope. It seems like preserving a state of denial uses so much extra energy – I guess because for me, fear is conveniently hidden within denial. And for me, at the end of the day, preserving a state of denial creates a less-than-positive energy within myself. The amount of anger that I can internally build by avoiding a thought or situation is dangerously uncomfortable. I think denial works really well sometimes, and it can keep people “going” for a long time. But one night I found myself awake in my bed, not able to sleep and shaking all over. I had realized that I was unable to deny certain negative things that were taking over my life. I woke up to my reality in that pitch black room, and it was terrifying and freeing.

    I think if you accept your reality and attempt to survive through it for the next day (or hour), then I believe hope can begin to infiltrate your heart and fill your body. We all are going out of this world on the same boat – no one escapes death. That is the scariest reality we all have to accept. I don’t even know what I’m saying, but it did snow today. RMC to answer one of your questions – this is a crazy complicated topic.

  25. DianeT November 2, 2014 at 6:38 pm #

    Wow, Hannah, your words really resonated with me. Especially the idea that fear might be

    “conveniently hidden in denial” and that facing reality can be both “terrifying and freeing.”

    Lots of food for thought. Thanks! – and thanks to you, Richard, for this inspiring (and

    hopeful) blog!

  26. Elizabeth November 3, 2014 at 1:57 pm #

    I have been quite behind on reading your posts and the responses as I lost my mom to a rare terminal cancer on Oct 13th. I just asked my family for permission to write about her/our experience to help others who just don’t believe there is a way to live while preparing to die. This experience has changed me to the core. As my memory is faulty sometimes, I decided to let my pain this morning by writing all of the words that I think of when I look back on what my mother went through. The word bigger than all of the rest in the center of the page was Hope written in beautiful script. Here is why.

    My mother spent the last two years since her relapse, continuing to go to the nursing home for three meals a day to care for my father. It wasn’t until the last few months that we finally got her to pull back and worry more about herself. She spent her days in immeasurable pain but her family was her focus.

    As my sister and I went to see our Dad last night, all of the people in the nursing home wing where my Dad has spent the last five years came to us and said how much they missed our mother and how they were thinking of us because they knew that their loss could not compare to ours. My point is that yes, my mother was a woman with immense faith. It certainly was a very large component of her being, but she gave hope to others when they saw her carrying on with her life. She gave and gave and gave, always dressed to the nines, makeup on, smiling, greeting others even when she felt horrible. While my grief is immense, I have hope because of her. I think that giving hope to others can create a hopeful environment. Faith makes it easier because you are handing over the ability to have hope in a hopeless situation, but hope can exist without faith.