Either we have Hope within us or we do not.
It is a dimension of the soul and is not essentially dependent on some particular observation of the world.
Hope is an orientation of the spirit, an orientation of the heart. It transcends the world that is immediately experienced and is anchored somewhere beyond its horizons.
Hope in this deep and powerful sense is not the same as joy that things are going well or willingness to invest in enterprises that are obviously headed for early success, but rather an ability to work for something because it is good, not just because it stands a chance to succeed.
Hope is definitely not the same thing as optimism. It is not the conviction that something will turn out well, but the certainty that something makes sense regardless of how it turns out.
It is Hope, above all, which gives the strength to live and continually try new things.
The part of this quote that first got me in is: hope is not the concept that something will turn out well, but the certainty that something makes sense regardless of how it turns out. As soon as I read this I was taken back to sitting in the intensive care unit watching the machines keeping Mary alive after she sufferred eclampsia following Ellen’s birth in 2003. The optimism and ‘trying to stay positive’ part of that experience for me (as Havel suggests) wasn’t about things turning out right (at the time I’d almost convinced myself that they wouldn’t!). It was more about knowing that I was doing absolutely everything I could to help – whether the outcome was good or bad. Doing that was the only thing that made sense, and the thing that kept me going, giving me the strength to live.
I guess if you were religious you might start substituting ‘hope’ for ‘faith’. There was probably a spiritual aspect to the experience for me – just hard to relate this to a God when there’s so much crap in the world… but that’s another story…