clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile

Filed under:

First Click: Hope

November 9th, 2016

A woman sits atop the world, desperately trying to make music from a battered instrument with only one remaining string. She’s blindfolded like Lady Justice, as if to dedicate her full unprejudiced mind to the task. She's isolated, and she's alone.

What do you feel when looking at the 19th century painting from acclaimed artist George Frederic Watts? Here, take a closer look by clicking the image below:

The painting is titled "Hope" despite exuding a palpable sense of despair. It’s a fitting allegory for a country divided after America selected Donald Trump over Hillary Clinton to become the next president of the United States. Half of the country, the winning half, is indeed hopeful, while the other half suffers in hopeless despair.

Watts’ painting isn’t new to the sphere of modern political discourse. It’s the inspiration behind President Obama’s The Audacity of Hope, a book itself derived from a sermon by Obama’s former pastor Jeremiah Wright. Despite giving the sermon in 1990, Wright’s interpretation of the painting is particularly appropriate today:

"In spite of being on a world torn by war, in spite of being on a world destroyed by hate and decimated by distrust, in spite of being on a world where famine and greed are uneasy bed partners, in spite of being on a world where apartheid and apathy feed the fires of racism and hatred, in spite of being on a world where nuclear nightmare draws closer with each second, in spite of being on a ticking time bomb, with her clothes in rags, her body scarred and bruised and bleeding, her harp all but destroyed and with only one string left, she had the audacity to make music … to have the audacity to hope"

To hope is not the same as to wish. To hope is to shape reality by the force of one’s own optimism, not conjure a desire into existence from some childish fantasy. Psychologists contend that hope can lead to greater happiness, better health, and even yield positive results in situations where a person has real control over the outcome, such as their performance in school or at work.

Hope can never be silenced

Psychologists also say that anyone can find a reason to hope, even those who’ve suffered trauma, like, say, watching their candidate suffer defeat in a bitterly contested fight. Hope that can be found in laughter, in family, in faith, or in music, even when it’s produced by just a single string.

We choose hope not just to feel good in times of desperation, but to help create a version of the world we want to inhabit. And hope can never be silenced.