Monday, 24 May 2010

Hope, Despair and Perspective

I have been helping out my wife with her final art project. This is called 'Where is the Hope?' and is a Facebook group that has been set up to collect images that represent hope and despair for the group members. Click here to see the group.

Over the course of the project, I have been considering the nature of hope and despair. I started off thinking of them as completely separate things. Then I posted something about Richard Nixon, and it completely changed my thinking.

I had started posting something about Nixon being the worst and least popular president in US history. He was the only president that had to resign, he was known as 'Tricky Dicky' because of his dirty tricks, Watergate started to shake the people's faith in democracy and one election seems to have shown that even the dead had voted for him. But as I did some research, I discovered a surprising number of positives for him. He got China to join the international community through his meetings with the notoriously isolationanist Chairman Mao. He maintained relations with Russia's Leonid Brezhnev throughout the Cold War. He oversaw Roe vs Wade, and legalised abortion. He brought the troops back from Vietnam. He was pro-civil rights and anti-racism. And as for being unpopular, he remains the only person elected twice to both the vice-presidency and the presidency, making him arguably the most popular American politician of them all.

So I came to realise that hope and despair are merely differences of perspective, attitudinal positions.

A friend of mine showed me the 'Lost Generations' video (found here). This was very clever, a poem that if read forwards gave one interpretation and if read backwards gave another. I thought this so well summed up my experiences of hope, despair and the perspective that separated them, it summed up the aims of the group and the project as well. I had a go at writing one of my own.

This is below:

Where is the Hope?

Where is the hope?
Because now I know
Where the despair is,
I have forgotten
That there is a bright side to life.
I now understand
More than I want to.
And if the dark side takes over
I cannot stop it
And if the sun comes out
It is not for long.
Storm clouds fill the sky but
Aren't they supposed to go soon?
Despair and gloom came to visit but
Seem to have moved in.
A new perspective, a new outlook
Will never happen
Despair taking over:
It is inevitable.

But almost nothing is really inevitable, and everything is just a matter of perspective, as reading this upwards will show...

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