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What is hope?

April 01 2023
© Chris Bird © Chris Bird

Why do we need hope, and what is it good for? Should we be hopeful in the world we live in? Tackling these questions – and considering the questions they lead to – is Leon Eckford

Hope, eh? This is such a wishy-washy term for a Scottish council estate kid to consume easily. It feels like I’m swallowing an uber-liberal dose of Prozac verbiage, at odds with the Scottish pragmatism that I’m fluent in. Example: We hope Hibs beat Hearts (which never happens!); I hope that one day I can see outside this frame of concrete reference; I hope my last intervention with one of my clients leads to a positive outcome.

For me, these wishes and desires are not exactly easy to trace and thinking about them often leads me to look at my own fears – linked to the deepest parts of the psyche. Spring looms, and we’re hurtling towards a magic roundabout of blue skies, white clouds, blooming flowers and the fresh smell of optimism. So, like Alexander Pope writing to one of his homies – let’s have a look at where we’re at today.

Arise King Charles, to the beat of strikes, Tory governments, earthquakes, war and climate change – to pick just five things that are being constantly beamed into our frontal cortex through our eyeballs continuously. I could be here all day highlighting what is wrong with our world – and where our collective and individual neurosis and malady is leading us. However, the eternal optimist in me clings onto the light afforded to us by the quest for community and connection.
This aspiration leads me to the people I encounter on the streets of London every day. We yearn for each other, regardless of whether the other is a healthy connect or otherwise. Johnny Square might not see the value in interpersonal relationships at a begging pitch in Westminster or in a back alley of Whitechapel, but I see the need for peer relationships that reflect where we are as individuals. It makes individual trauma easier to process and highlights why addiction is so prevalent within our society. Interestingly, different strata of class see this issue criminally, psycho-socially, or professionally. I love to see our street community laughing at the absurdity of life around them.

If you’re rough sleeping in Tower Hamlets, bookended by the corporate behemoths in Canary Wharf or Aldgate, I’d suggest that any person would see the bizarre abstraction and viewpoint through a comedic filter. Either that, or you’d burst into tears. Is hope something that we all have collectively, as human beings, starting from our first breath until we take our very last breath? And are our ambitions, dreams and expectations linked to our individual circumstances and our desire to level up onto the next challenge and journey into the forest of life ahead of us?

One thing is for sure, these questions are eternal. With this question of eternity spread out millions of years before us and ahead of us, I’d offer the light of hope burning brightly in a timeless state until our soul elevates into the next dimension and beyond. Even the grim reaper can’t fuck with that.

  • Leon works in outreach in London. He has witnessed the effects of hope and fear on people in the homeless community
  • Although it can be difficult to stay hopeful, Leon argues we can’t diminish and lose the light of hope from our lives
  • Find out about helpful services in the List in the centre pages of the magazine.