Action and hope

Sometimes I feel the world’s problems are intractable; that we are all standing on a cliff being relentlessly pulled over and there is nothing I or anyone else can do about it.

And then I have a day like yesterday.

Yesterday I saw two very different performances. The first was a puppet show; an adaptation of Jean Giono’s The Man Who Planted Trees. Published in 1953, this is a touching and slightly other-worldly fable about a man who, over the course of a lifetime, creates a forest out of wilderness. The puppet show added welcome humour but remained true to the book’s message of the power of renewal through an individual’s quiet, persistent action.

In the evening I saw Home at the National Theatre’s temporary space, The Shed. This was a piece created from the recorded testimonies of young residents and staff living in an East London hostel. In 2013, homelessness amongst young people in the UK is at a record high; this piece gives that bleak fact a human face. It was authentic, compelling and didn’t pull any punches. Extraordinarily, though, it was uplifting, affecting – inspirational, even.  I was left me in awe of the young people whose stories I’d heard. Despite having gone through hardships I could not begin to imagine, they retained humour, patience and determination to make their life better. What struck me most, however, was that, despite everything, they retained the most extraordinary capacity for hope.

Going home on the tube afterwards, I read this passage from the American writer and activist Rebecca Solnit:

'To hope is to gamble. It’s to bet on the future, on your desires, on the possibility that an open heart and uncertainty is better than gloom and safety. To hope is dangerous, and yet it is the opposite of fear, for to live is to risk… Hope is an ax you break down doors with in an emergency; because hope should shove you out the door, because it will take everything you have to steer the future away from endless war, from the annihilation of the earth’s treasures and the grinding down of the poor and marginal. Hope just means another world might be possible. Hope calls for action; action is impossible without hope…To hope is to give yourself to the future, and that commitment to the future makes the present inhabitable.'

Hope is possible. Hope makes living worthwhile. Hope combined with action can change the world.


This blog post was first written on 29 August 2013

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