The word has only one syllable and four letters. It’s one of those little words that can mean so much in such a small space.
The other day at work, my coworker and friend said she didn’t quite comprehend how I managed to maintain such a level of perkiness, despite being run ragged all over the library. We were all tired, footsore, and undoubtedly annoyed at one thing, person, or another. I tried to explain that “perky” wasn’t really my gig, and only got as far as saying that, if I didn’t keep up my customer-service-quality smile, my mannerisms would be construed as being ill-tempered.
I failed to realize (and explain) that, in reality, I was just being optimistic and hopeful. I was hoping the next patron would return the positive energy to us, be kind, be cheerful, or that I’d helped brighten up the person’s day just by being— for a lack of a better term— perky.
The thing that sparked my train of thought was reading Jack Campbell’s The Lost Fleet: Dauntless. Without giving too much away, the fleet is (obviously) lost and needs to find its way home. Douglas Adams once stated in the Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy that an organic being emits a sense of how pathetically far away from home it is during times of high stress. So, imagine that idea multiplied by a lot (for the whole fleet and all) while being chased around the stars by the enemy. During those times, hope’s the only thing that keeps people together and from declaring mutiny.
Hope is a fuel, though you aren’t aware of it until you’re deprived of it (or you spend too much time thinking about it, like I apparently did).
Let’s not even go into the details about how we live in some… How should I put this? …interesting times right now. Just take a look at the video games. I couldn’t help but notice the majority of my games have some awfully grim settings. There’s always something or other threatening Azeroth on a global scale in Warcraft. The Reapers want to wipe us out in the Mass Effect universe. It’s always the “end times” in Diablo because the Prime Evil(s) want to conquer mankind. Zombies hardly need to be explained. Then there’s Starcraft where the Zerg threatened life as we knew it— and that’s just the start of our worries.
There’s only one thing that keeps everyone going in each of those universes: hope. If nothing else can describe our nature, the essence of our being, it’s hope.
When the Archangel of Hope is captured during Diablo’s conquest of the High Heavens, every NPC including Tyrael is despondent and despairing when you talk to them. Yet, when Auriel is freed and able to help the hero on her (or his) task to take back Heaven, everyone regains their fighting spirit— or, at least the ability to stop despairing and go back to what they were doing.
The team of humans and aliens on the Normandy in Mass Effect constantly remind Commander Shepard, especially during moments of doubt in the mission, that the commander has built hope in addition to uniting the galaxy’s disparate peoples and amassing a huge fleet to fight back. Without making people believe that they have even the slightest chance, all of the weapons and technology in the universe won’t save them.
Admiral Hackett reminds Shepard of this sentiment when the commander asks the inevitable “Why me?” question: “Shepard, let me tell you something I’ve learned the hard way: You can pay a soldier to fire a gun. You can pay him to charge the enemy and take a hill. But you can’t pay him to believe.”
There’s a reason for all of those “inspirational speeches” right before the big battle by our favorite characters. Such speeches are almost cliche, but they’re still necessary. Jim Raynor had his speech in Starcraft II on the battlefields of Char. Commander Shepard has one in each of the Mass Effect games. Tirion Fordring is infamous for his grandiose words in Icecrown Citadel. The list goes on and on.
At the end of Cataclysm with Deathwing finally vanquished, the Dragon Aspects are no longer the creatures they once were and the future seems rather uncertain. Yet, Alexstrasza and the others don’t seem to be terribly bothered by their new existence as mortals. She places her faith in the hope of the future, the children of Thrall and Aggra, and in us mortal heroes.
My favorite example of hope, however, is from a cartoon: the Teen Titans, to be exact. Robin is talking with Raven after the defeat of her father and everything has gone back to normal. Since her birth, Raven’s been hounded by an ancient prophecy that she’ll bring death and destruction wherever she goes due to her father. Yet, because she dared to be a hero and her friends refused to believe the cause as lost, they managed to thwart the fall of Earth and the universe. And, as they’re watching the sunrise, Raven asks Robin how he managed to keep hope alive when everything seemed lost. Robin, in turn, surprises Raven by turning the conversation on her.
“Because of you,” Robin said. “You don’t realize it, Raven, but you’re actually the most hopeful person I’ve ever met. From the day you were born, they said you were evil. That you were created to do unspeakable things. But you wished for more. You dared to hope you could be a hero.”
In the wake of events that shake us as a country, as communities, as individuals, it’s important to keep hope alive. Whether we’re hoping for a better day and trying to continue our lives, or we’re hoping for something on a bigger scale, we need to remain steadfast.