Friday, February 13, 2009

Hope as a Martial Art

" Hope is a magic power that grants us further powers. It is not a consequence of good fortune, but a precondition for it: not a conjecture about the future, but a strength exercised in the present. As anyone who has broken through a police line knows, when it really counts morale is more important than organization, preparation, or even intelligence.

This is not to say we should study self-delusion, but simply that the revolutionary project takes place outside the domain of calculation and common sense. In setting out to transform the world, we are attempting the impossible; supernatural faith may indeed be better suited to the task than mundane pragmatism. A revolutionary aspires to have a tight grasp on reality without the converse being true.

Those who insist that there is no hope are thinking like scientists: they look at hope as a measurable quantity outside themselves, reducing it to a question of whether there are grounds to believe something is true of the future. They are poor scientists, at that, speculating from a static position rather than proposing a hypothesis and conducting an experiment! It is never possible to answer such questions accurately; one never has access to all the necessary information, and one's own choices influence the outcome in unforeseeable ways.

In acknowledging the influence of our choices, we can begin to formulate another conception of hope. Even if it were possible to see into the future from an armchair, it wouldn't be as fulfilling as consciously playing a role in determining it; conceptualized differently, hope can enable us to do this, even if it does not guarantee the results.

Besides, why measure the value of any undertaking by it's consequences alone? If a revolutionary effort does not succeed in immediately transfiguring the cosmos, that doesn't mean it was a waste of time. Evaluating our activities that way is naive if anything is; there's no sense in privileging the future over the present and rejecting everything that exists in favor of things that do not. The point is always what is happening: the process, not the product, the means, not some overriding end - that, for a few minutes or years, something beautiful is happening. The paradise we deserve doesn't wait in a future that may or may not arrive; it is comprised of these moments, whenever they occur. Which side are you on - the future, or the present?

Utopia is notoriously unreachable as a destination, but equally notorious for inspiring incredible voyages. By the time we arrive at our goals, they are often unrecognizable, or else we are. A preoccupation with life "after the revolution" can be as debilitating as the news constantly broadcast from Capitol Hill to distract us from what we can do where we are. But unyoked from our addiction to assurances and our expectation to be paid for everything, practiced instead as the art of making self-fulfilling prophecies - as a martial art - hope offers us tremendous power.

If this is so, then the real question is why people willfully disable themselves by embracing resignation and defeatism. The cynic is not coming to terms with the hard facts of reality, but imposing them upon himself. If he really wants to learn whether the things he desires are impossible, he has to start from the premise - no, from the deep-seated conviction - that they are possible, and act accordingly. "

From Expect Resistance. I think it's nice. Digital text copy/pasted from HERE. A PDF version of the whole book HERE.

Related to "Pessimism of the Intellect, Optimism of the Will".


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