6 Pages


Hope, it has been observed, is among those capacities and dispositions which serve to mark off the territory of the distinctly human within the world.1 Indeed, as George Steiner suggests, the human capacity for imagining and articulating future states, reaching beyond the limits of a given present and positing ‘axiomatic fictions’ about what may yet be, appears to be bound up inexorably with the place the human species occupies within the wider creation. ‘Natural selection’, he writes, ‘has favoured the subjunctive’.2 ‘The conventions of forwardness so deeply entrenched in our syntax make for a constant, sometimes involuntary, resilience. Drown as we may, the idiom of hope, so immediate to the mind, thrusts us to the surface.’3 Seemingly insatiable in appetite for something more and better lying for the time being beyond whatever our lot in life affords us, humanity nonetheless orientates itself towards the future not by instinct and desire alone, but hopefully. Even the simplest of purposeful actions (from getting out of bed in the morning onward) are undertaken in the hope or the expectation that something positive will come of them, and that they are, for that very reason, things worth doing at all. ‘We move forwards’, says Steiner, ‘in the slipstream of the statements we make about tomorrow morning’.4