By Robert K. MacFarlane
All civilized societies live near the edge. Some of us are far away from the precipice. Others cling to a crumbling brink overlooking an abyss. Most of us may be closer than we want to believe, as we live in hope that life-changing calamity will never befall us.
Our inherent optimism leads us to use the word hope casually and socially, almost all the time. “I hope that you enjoy yourself downtown tonight.” “We hope that the Maple Leafs win.” Our feelings of hope are rarely accompanied by a sense of foreboding or dread.
Hope sits at one end of the emotional spectrum. At the opposite is hopelessness. Let’s carefully consider the latter. What makes it different from hope? To start with, it’s decidedly, brutally negative. And it’s beyond simply being a feeling.
Hopelessness is a state of mind, even of the body. It conjures images of finality. It is linked to terminal illness and death. As a matter of despair, hopelessness can overwhelm mind and body, reducing us to helplessness and mere shadows of ourselves.
Back to the edge. It’s natural that we prefer to avoid living or treading anywhere near the abyss. Some, and not just a few, of us, however, are pushed towards the brink by the vicissitudes of life. Each of us shudders at the thought of a health crisis, the sudden loss of income or earning capacity. Were we to pause to look in the mirror, we reluctantly might admit that each of us is indeed more vulnerable than we would wish to believe.
Into each of our lives, rain always falls, yet some face a deluge, time after time, manifested by sudden emotional breakdown, acute debilitating mental and physical illness,employment layoff, redundancy, bereavement, traumatic fracturing of marital and other relationships. Any one of these is a recipe for spiral into a state of hopelessness.
THE COMPASS knows that there are constant battles against hopelessness, even in affluent southern Mississauga and throughout Canada, every single day. In a six-part series, one of our volunteers will write about these battles and how, together with others, we are in an ongoing campaign to overcome hopelessness and the conditions that spawn it. Part of the war against poverty of the body, mind, and spirit that we are determined to win.