I could write a book about the importance of (free) will as opposed to hope. I might in the end but because this is the internet and I do have a family to look after, I’m going to have to do it a little at a time, in bits scattered here and there.
When we hope, we give power to some outside source to change what is happening in our life. That outside source can be life in general, (so, unspecific sources of events), people (the interviewer for our new job, the policeman who will decide whether to let us go or not), or, it can be a supernatural being (God, a saint, a fairy).
If we look at it that way, we see that a synonym for hope is delegate. Imagine replacing one word for another all the time:
“I hope it will be sunny tomorrow”=”I delegate to the Earth to make it sunny tomorrow”. It makes sense. We still haven’t invented Gyro Gearloose’s weather making machine.
“I hope they will give me that job”=”I delegate to the people I interviewed with to decide for me for that post”. This kind of makes sense too, as long as there is an awareness that you have done what you could to influence that outcome, and now it is someone else’s turn to do their job and decide about you.
“I hope my new boyfriend won’t make me suffer”=”I delegate my new boyfriend to ensure my lack of suffering”. This starts making my ears itch. You are delegating the job to ensure your lack of suffering to someone else? You are removing from yourself the responsibility to contribute to the relationship in a productive way, to keep an eye and ear out for your partner’s behaviour to see how he’s feeling about you both, and choosing to be blind to the flaws he has that will most likely lead to your suffering. From my point of view, your suffering is therefore ensured.
However, this can be changed a little, to mean “I hope this relationship works out well”, and then it can become acceptable: you are not delegating, assuming you are aware that you will put all your best efforts in the relationship and hope that your partner does the same. There is only so much you can do to ensure he puts in his best efforts too.
“I hope God will change my life”=”I delegate a supernatural being to do all that is necessary, big and small, to change my life. Even decide in what way I want to change it”.
This might occur in the form of a prayer for something definite. “Please God give me the strength to face that interview”. In this case you might be performing some kind of meditation that helps you focus on what you will do. Prayers work a little like hypnosis, or eastern forms of focusing: at first you pray a lot to get to that state of mind, then all you need is a “power phrase” in your mind to get you going. However, the belief in a supernatural being can be brought to a very dangerous place. The place where you delegate everything to this all-powerful being.
This is bad enough, but when that supernatural being is not even in direct contact with you (and therefore you can pretty much imagine him or her to be able to do, or want to do, anything you want, so it works, as I said, more as a meditation that leaves you in control), but is actually interpreted through a person (a priest), you can immediately see how terribly dangerous it is to delegate your happiness, your decisions, your choices and how you feel about yourself to a person that not only you are delegating with the power over you. He is at the same time supposedly delegating power to this supernatural being, and telling you what this supernatural being, now in charge of you and your destiny, wants, wishes, decides.
We as humans clearly have a disposition towards giving up responsibility for our actions, for our lives. It must be a remnant of the fear we must have experienced as animals, or more recently as when we were helpless babies: we had to struggle to stir events in our favour (cry to get food, shelter, protection, and so on, or hunt constantly, or run in fear). We deep down love the idea of being looked after, being dependant on fates, other people, the whims of nature. Somehow, just like abused people return to be abused, we feel reassured by the repetition of a condition that may have been unpleasant, but we knew
it, we were familiar with it.
That is the problem of course. Accepting responsibility for our actions, the consequences of the same and the end result of each and every day of our lives, takes heaps of courage because it forces us to admit we do not know how things will turn out. We can try our best and aim as straight and true as possible, but we may have gotten our targets completely wrong and cause completely unplanned and unforeseen things to happen. People who stride into life with apparent confidence, take control over the same and are always changing, revolutionising and experimenting, strike us as “bold”, or sometimes even arrogant! We envy them, secretely, and despise them at the same time. These feelings were reinforced and taught to us by many many religions, who have taken the deeper, purest meaning of spiritual belief and inspiration, and have turned it into into a massive, devastating control tool.
If we are meek, as sheep, and delegate our lives to outside forces, whichever they are, we are safe: someone knows better than us.
This leads to a greater discussion about religion, which I will tackle bit by bit. But my aim now is to point out that by merely swapping the words, from “hope” to “delegate”, we can see whether that hope is positive thinking about the future (which is of course fine), or whether we are relinquishing responsibility: which is still fine, of course, we are free to do as we please. BUT it removes our right to shake our fists in the air and get mad at someone else if things didn’t go our way later.