Friday, September 14, 2007

Hope Springs Eternal

Now they are doing “hope studies” and conducting surveys to “measure hope”
Some exponents were on the CBC radio this morning telling us that “hope is correlated with almost every positive human experience.” Wizards, I tell you, absolute wizards. Probably earned several social work degrees, maybe even a Psych degree thrown in, to learn that one!
Of course hope is associated with positive experiences, get to first base and you suddenly hope you can get to second. Have a good appetizer and you hope dinner will be good too. Have one good relationship and you hope all relationships will be good. Now there’s where hope triumphs over experience!
Human behaviour follows patterns. You don’t have to be a genius to extrapolate that one positive experience might suggest a second one. Logically after any identifiable experience, say, a first day at a new school, job, etc. things can get either better or worse. We hope for the best, because healthy people seek good outcomes, that’s why. Those who always seek worse outcomes are defined as pathological – when they go beyond being merely a “gloomy Gus” – and we institutionalize the worst cases. The rest get referred for analysis and therapy.
As I wrote in an earlier blog, you get to choose your attitude. Since people respond more receptively to positive people, it makes sense from a survival perspective to be hopeful, act hopeful. Plus it tends to be a self-fulfilling prophecy. If you have a hopeful attitude good things tend to happen more often. Make it a habit and you probably even turn bad things into a perception of good. When Fate gives you lemons, make lemonade.
I think these “Hope Merchants” are nothing more than the natural extension of the Oughties (’06, ’07, etc.) manifestation of self-help from the Eighties, the Personal Development of the 90s. Now we have Hope Studies. Self-help re-packaged. Nothing more than W. Clement Stone “Success Through a Positive Mental Attitude.” The British often said, Keep a stiff upper lip!” By which they meant, no crying!
PMA - It works but it doesn’t need re-packaging. The expectation is that if you don’t give it a facelift now and again people will disregard it as being “old stuff” that can’t possibly apply to today’s generation. Always they want something “New and Improved.”
The fact is, there is nothing new in it at all. Plato, and the other Greek scholars, wrote all this stuff down more than two and a half millennia ago. Marcus Aurelius re-wrote it 500 years later and it was praised then.
What we need is not a copywriter’s update of the truths of our earlier scholars, just a better classical education in the first place.


Scotty said...

George Bernard Shaw: He who has never hoped can never despair.

Antoine de Saint-Exupery: If you want to build a ship, don't herd people together to collect wood and don't assign them tasks and work, but rather teach them to long for the endless immensity of the sea.

Martin Luther King, Jr.: If you lose hope, somehow you lose the vitality that keeps life moving, you lose that courage to be, that quality that helps you go on in spite of it all. And so today I still have a dream.

François Duc de La Rochefoucauld: Hope, deceitful as it is, serves at least to lead us to the end of our lives by an agreeable route.

Christopher Reeve: Once you choose hope, anything's possible.

William Shakespeare:
The miserable have no other medicine
But only hope.

See anything you like, Geoff?


Mary Paddock said...

I'm always amused when they announce the newest "self help" (especially weightloss programs) scheme because they always look so much like much the self-help programs of twenty years ago. Perseverence and faith don't go out of style, it seems. But the terms sure change.

My Dad quoted this one to me a while back. I looked it up and can't find the who said it:
Many of the great achievements of the world were accomplished by tired and discouraged men who kept on working.

Bandersnatchi said...

Good ideas, Scotty. Let's start a company printing those quotes on bumper stickers and retire rich.. and hopeful.

mary - actually, I like your Dad's quote a lot because it is less saccharine; it has an intuitively real sense about it.