Everything is F*cked
Hope is a great help for desperate times. When we need the drive to make things better, such as during authoritarian regimes. But when things are doing well in the present, lots of hope translates to having a lot to lose.
Hope's Flaws #
First off, hope is never a guarantee to make things better due to the structure of human emotions. We form identities and beliefs from formative emotional experiences when we're younger. For example, someone may get hit a lot as a child. Their emotional brain may frame this as "I can't fight back since I deserve the pain." This forms a narrative around their identity until another formative experience changes that. Hope isn't enough to help someone with an ingrained, hopeless mindset.
And like any belief, hope is vulnerable to becoming a twisted, corrupt belief system. You can't trust a belief or group only because it's built on hope. So many belief systems go with the following pattern:
- Sell a particular type of hope
- Dismiss all criticisms
- Give followers some rituals to follow
- Ask them to do what you want, like give you money or power
Third, hope creates conflict. For hope to be good, something must be bad. Hoping for a better future means the present is bad in some way. This creates unhappiness and conflict.
The Pursuit of Happiness #
People may frame hope as the pursuit of happiness, but that has its flaws. At its core its the avoidance of pain and discomfort. This is incompatible with how painful and challenging life often is.
It also endangers democracy. It puts our comfort above compromising with different opinions. Working with others you disagree with is vital to democracy, and most societies as a whole.
The pursuit of happiness is also pointless in the first place. Being "happier" makes our mind's baseline for "happy" adjust to that level. Once it does, things that didn't before make us unhappy soon will. This happens no matter where the baseline is. It's called "hedonic adaptation."
Lately, this pursuit has also become dependent on unneeded comforts and distractions. These distractions are modern comforts like social media and video. But being reliant on these for happiness robs us of our time and attention. These also often hook people by preying on insecurities, or pain points. people then see them as something they need to feel better. This all makes it harder to devote our time and attention to more meaningful activities. In other words, they steal our freedom.
The above all show the flaws in hopeful thinking, and the bad paths it can pull us down. What are some alternatives?
Better Ways of Thinking #
One way to overcome the good/bad issue with hope is accepting life for both the good and the bad. Instead of seeing life as good and death as bad, we should accept both for what they are and avoid neither. Life is often a difficult and scary thing, and nothing can change that. So we're better off accepting this.
Also, don't do good or virtuous things only because you hope they'll lead to good outcomes. For example, don't avoid not stealing only so you'll get to heaven. Do virtuous things because they're the right thing to do, and that's it. Transactional thinking treats people as means to an end. In other words, they're transactional objects instead of humans worthy of respect. Developing, and acting, strong principles is a major part of being an adult.
Long story short - don't hope for life to become 100% peaceful and comforting since it never will be. Accept it as it is and strive to live by your virtues regardless of the pain. This isn't always easy or comfortable. But it'll free you of much of the anxieties, conflicts, and distractions a too-hopeful mindset brings.