Thursday, June 2, 2011

The Power of Hope

by Jaden Terrell

The television show Criminal Minds frequently features voice-overs of the lead characters sharing famous quotations that reflect or illuminate the themes of each episode. Tonight, as I was half-watching a DVR'd rerun of the show, I heard a quote from Friederich Nietzsche, who said, "Hope is the worst of evils, for it prolongs the torment."

In Greek mythology, Pandora was entrusted with a container (originally a jar, but in modern terms generally referred to as a box) which she was forbidden to open under any circumstances. But curiosity compelled her to open the box. As soon as the lid was opened, all the evils of the world were released. Appalled by the consequences of her act, she slammed the lid down, but it was too late. Only one thing remained in the box/jar--Hope.

We are never told why Hope remains in the box. Is the story, like Neitzsche, telling us that Hope is a great evil? Does it mean that, while evil has been released, Hope is still trapped in the box, forever unattainable?

I recall a version that ends with Pandora, realizing what she has done, opening the box a second time and releasing Hope into the world. I prefer this ending, because I believe Hope is the antidote to "all the evils of the world" and that its presence in the box was a gift of grace.

Hope is a vital component of every writer's toolbox. What else would keep us going when yet another agent or editor rejects our work, when our Amazon ratings hover in the millions, when our Kindle sales are in the single digits, or when a disgruntled reader posts a one-star review? What gives some writers the stamina to go on writing page after page and book after book until they finally get that contract or that good review, while others fall by the wayside?

The love of writing, of course, but I think there's something more. That something more is Hope. Hope that each book will be better than the last. Hope that we will write something that will touch readers' hearts--make them laugh, make them cry, entertain them, help them forget their problems, or reassure them that they are not alone. Hope that our words will make a difference.

Hope helps us stay the course.

There have been times when I've felt like I would never be a "real" writer, that I was just fooling myself with false hope. Fortunately, those times have never lasted long. My wonderful critique group, my family, my friends, and my blessedly supportive spouse have always helped me rekindle Hope.

What has helped you keep your hopes alive?


Shane Cashion said...

Hope, persistence, and a proper perspective, and I trust everything eventually falls into place. At least that's what I'm hoping :)

Jean Henry Mead said...

Without hope, life would be unbearable. And now, due to changes in the publishing industry, fledgling writers' hopes have become a reality though the ebook revolution. Self publishing is now accepted in most circles although still shunned by most literary competitions. But that too will change.

Jaden Terrell said...

Exciting times, Jean. It will be interesting to see how everything shakes out.

Shane, that makes two of us. :o)