AO: I talk to people about getting rid of hope and faith. And the strange effect of it is that it makes them more hopeful. I don’t deprive them of that if that’s what they need at that stage of their development. But personally, I’m not hopeful because I think hope is a kind of religion, and religions don’t work. If you’re hopeful you’re going to suffer disappointments, whether it’s politics or your personal life. You can care about things, you can want things to happen, you can work to make things happen without being hopeful. The way I guarantee not being too disappointed is to not put too much hope onto things.
Take this conversation between you and me, for example. Sure, I hope that we’ll get something out of it. I want something to come out of it because I don’t have a lot of energy these days and I’m careful about how I spend it. But if this interaction were a total waste, I wouldn’t be upset very much. All that said, sometimes I wish I could be more hopeful. Sometimes I miss that.
RJ: Why is that?
AO: Because hope is comfortable. Because sometimes the way I think makes me very lonely, a kind of intellectual loneliness.
Emphasis mine. I find it difficult to communicate that idea to people, though, wedded as they are to the notion that hope is balanced out by a resigned, weary fatalism. Not quite — the flip side of hope is fear. Both are projections of our wishes onto the future, and the alternative to that is to just exist in the present, perceive what’s there and act accordingly. It is true, though, that it can be lonely to think that way while surrounded by people who, to use Auden’s phrase, “anticipate or remember but never are.”