Philosophical musings of Chic Hollis
There are a few indispensable products a human absolutely needs in order to survive in this challenging environment like oxygen, water, food, and protection from the harsher elements. Another necessity recognized as a “product” by street smart peddlers is hope. This abundant commodity is professionally marketed all over the world.
The basic industry that fabricates hope is called “religion,” and the business dedicated to supplying humans with hope has been granted tax exempt status in many countries. Religion is one of the most competitive businesses known to man. In the never-ending struggle to control the supply of precious commodities, some humans will sacrifice their lives in order to corner the market. The long history of the violent strife among devout religious humans who are in the business of selling hope is still being written.
In the last century other professions have discovered how marketing hope can expand their business horizons. Educators at every level are peddling hope to our youth. With similar determination the pharmaceutical companies and the medical and psychological practitioners are pitching hope for improved health to the gullible general public. Even the politicians are recklessly promising a better life for every resident of this country, legal or illegal. Their objective is to attract desperate citizens to the polls to vote for candidates who think they can dig up some hidden treasure to pay for all those missing social and economic “entitlements.”
Humanity has no idea what hope truly costs, financially or otherwise. As the main motivator to innovation, success, and progress, hope is an invaluable incentive which carries no price tag when sold. It is constantly advertised, but rarely discounted. It is a common commodity with long shelf life exempt from sales tax. It is packaged in very colorful ways by well-known companies, and it is often promoted as an elixir or a panacea for troubled folks. Even those terminally sick humans close to death are tempted to buy into some exotic form of hope.
Hope is offered for no money down, only a suggested request to pay a gratuity to society should a customer be satisfied with the advertised product or the illusive results. Return customers are never turned away, and those who are not happy with the limited product guarantee can exchange their hopes for the latest version without even being asked to present the original invoice. Customer satisfaction is the professed objective. Supposedly, anyone discovered abusing customers by peddling despair instead of hope will eventually be reprimanded and dealt with severely by the boss or the market.
Unfortunately, there are a variety of unscrupulous con artists who scam the innocent and trusting. Insurance companies, lawyers, stock brokers, and gambling casinos are the worst culprits. Even the honorable banking community has proven untrustworthy recently when realtors, property assessors, and mortgage brokers conspired with banks to give mortgage loans to naive home buyers. Not everyone is familiar with the slick sales pitch of horse traders, carnival barkers, and used car salespersons.
The question that puzzles me is why humans are so ready to buy into whatever offers them hope. Men are seldom happy with their life and their wife, their jobs and their income, their home and their possessions, their government, the cost of living, and the behavior of their kids. Yet adults will go on hoping for a better society, a more lenient and generous boss, a more harmonious family relationship, and a benevolent and understanding government. And sooner or later all parents silently hope that their dear children will somehow graduate from high school and go off to “make it on their own.”
Primitive man only hoped to find something to eat each day. As the tribe grew, so did their hopes. The members hoped for more territory, more tools, more wives, and more children to help with the work. Eventually, when more civilized nations were evolving, the powerful leaders expected a luxurious lifestyle for themselves, and the ambitious serfs sought a solution to their sorry state in the form of a rich and compassionate patron. The craftiest humans who often dealt with the insatiable human spirit knew something about human nature and began marketing a brand new version of hope, the hope of eternal life.
“Hope springs eternal in the human breast” if the seed is properly planted in the human mind. But it must be nourished and watered as it grows by some randomly happening consequences that confirm the possibility that human hope can actually be realized if a person is patient, obedient, hard-working, and hopeful.
However, an avalanche of misery can turn hopefulness into hopelessness and drive an exhausted human to commit suicide. Not many humans are sufficiently masochistic or adequately prepared to suffer major disappointment. Delayed gratification is not taught by those who control the appetites of the immature of our nation.
Pastors are losing the attention of many young consumers who are in the market for hope. There is a constant battle for the malleable minds of humans. Success is harder to come by today in admonishing worshipers to behave themselves so that their hopes of arriving in Heaven when they die will be rewarded.
Most impatient young humans can’t wait that long, because there are so many temptations at hand in the form of illegal drugs, promiscuous behavior, and get-rich-easy schemes that promise Heaven here on earth. Forgiveness of sins is a cheap remedy available in certain religions, and suicide bombers of the Muslim faith are guaranteed that they will go to Heaven merely by killing infidels and heretics.
I blame the prevalence of hope on the fact that humans don’t enjoy living in the present. Most of them are dreaming about some better life in the future: tomorrow, next week, next month, next year, or “after they shuffled off the mortal coil.” They are always hoping to live long enough to witness some improved physical and mental circumstances and to experience some ideal form of the bona vita.
I don’t want to dash anyone’s high hopes, but the ecstasy of realizing our humans’ dreams lasts for a very short time. Sooner or later reality in some ugly form comes back on stage. Considering all the possibilities of what might happen in the future can lead a thinking person to despair if his expectations are too optimistic or his talents too few to achieve his unrealizable dreams.
Whichever path in life an individual decides to take, the high road full of hope or the low road full of despair, the human journey always ends when a person runs out of breath and the will to go on. In the words of G. K. Chesterton, “Hope is the power of being cheerful in circumstances which we know to be desperate.”
Toil on cheerfully today, I suggest, because who knows what tomorrow will bring? Someone of less renown than Chesterton once advised me to: “Enjoy the journey, the reward at the destination may be quite disappointing.”