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Opinion Pieces
January 30, 2005
Where There Is Hope, There Is Life
 By Joe Klock, Sr.
     As any survivor (yes, including this one) of clinical depression can tell you, when hope has been abandoned, the quality of one's life hits rock bottom, and there is a frantic clawing to dig even deeper. It is difficult, perhaps impossible, to imagine a more debilitating human affliction than hopelessness - or, happily, one more curable.
     "What's the use?" is a dead end sign on the road to success, happiness, personal fulfilment and peace of mind. In its shadow, the other theological virtues of faith and charity struggle for survival.
     What oxygen is for the body, hope is for the spirit, and the absence of either is frighteningly suffocating.
     On the other hand - the flip side, if you will - is the old adage that where there is life there is hope; "life" in this context meaning a dream, a desire, a vision, a wish, a purpose that is strong enough to see us through anything from a temporary case of the "blahs" to a slough of abject despair.
     Viktor Emil Frankl, M.D., is one of my all-time heroes. He was a promising young psychiatrist in Vienna when, simply because he was Jewish, he and his family were shipped to a series of Nazi concentration camps, wherein his wife, parents and brother all perished.
     He not only survived the holocaust, but lived to write 32 books, including "Man's Search For Meaning," of which more than seventy editions have been published in at least 24 languages.
     During his ordeal, Frankl observed that, without exception, those who lived through the horrors and suffering of that experience did so because they had something to live for, a future purpose in life, and a determination, fueled by little more than hope, to see it through.
     He noted that those who lacked such motivation crumpled under the pressure and wasted away.
     Hope, sometimes called "The Cinderella of graces," is rooted in all religious beliefs, and is a great comfort to believers. It is also a powerful force in the secular realm for those who choose to embrace it.
     In the musical "South Pacific," nurse Nellie Forbush sings that "I'm stuck like a dope with a thing called hope, and I can't get it out of my heart." (Lucky you, Nellie!)
     To have hope is to have a purpose, a goal, a raison d'etre, the foundation of the survival instinct that burns in every living thing.
     It is the sometimes-desperate hope that "things" will get better that inspires us to slog on past those "What's the use?" signs we encounter from time to time.
     It was the hope that he could - and the determination that he would - one day finish a half-completed manuscript that helped Viktor Frankl through the dark days at Auschwitz.
     It is the same hope that can energize the otherwise hopeless to take some action - any action - in the face of adversity, rather than standing still and being washed over by a tsunami of adversity.
     Hockey star Wayne Gretsky shrewdly noted that "You miss a hundred percent of the shots you don't take." That's one of many reasons why they call him "the great one."
     For hope to exist and be effective, it isn't necessary that it make sense. Norman Cousins, who cured himself of an "incurable" disease wrote that "Hope is independent of the apparatus of logic." (Read his "Anatomy Of An Illness" if you haven't yet done so; it's probably at your free library, and/or available in paperback on the cheap.)
     There is a huge pothole between "I coulda-shoulda-woulda" and "I did." Hope for the future turns it into a stepping stone, while hopelessness transforms it into a canyon.
     Case study: She walked with a leg brace until she was eleven years of age, having had  polio, scarlet fever and other crippling diseases. But, she also had hope, which guided Wilma Rudolph to three gold medals in the 1960 Olympics.
     Said she: "I ran and ran and ran every day, and I acquired this sense of determination, this sense of spirit that I would never, never give up, no matter what else happened. Never underestimate the power of dreams and the influence of the human spirit. We are all the same in this notion: The potential for greatness lives within each of us."
     That "life within us" begins with hope, and where there is hope, there is also an abundance of available life.
     Always, always, always!

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