“I supposed she was exhibiting what people nowadays refer to, with crushing disapproval, as denial.
It’s always been hard for me to tell the difference between denial and what used to be known as hope.”
“She would consider each day a miracle – which indeed it is, when you consider the number of unexpected things that could happen in each second of our fragile existences.”
As noted far too many times on Enlightened Conflict I am an unequivocal Hope guy.
But ever since I saved this quote <over a year ago> I have come back to it again and again thinking about whether we do actually navigate some line between hope and denial.
It also made me think about what Hope and Denial really is.
Hope is big.
And often it is so big we forget some of its dynamics. Hope, while encompassing a view with an eye toward some positive or favorable outcome, spans from something well founded in probability to something completely beyond the pale of possibility.
On one end is dream, with wish settled in beside it on some cloud, and on the other end is expect, with anticipate snuggled up beside it on a different cloud.
I imagine this is why we tend to immediately label someone’s hope as either false hope or realistic hope <when we actually mean one of the dynamics I just outlined>.
And what exactly is denial?
Denial is a little less complex <although it does have degrees> in that, at its core, it is the refusal to accept a past or present reality … a truth.
Simplistically, you refuse to see some harsh truths in reality. I could argue the two ends of the denial spectrum are simply “total” and “less-conviction” but instead I would just say that denial is like a border wall in which some places it is a little less thick than in others.
But denial has a nefarious side to it with regard to hope. Just ponder this for a minute or two … denial is pretending to have Hope, while you’re actually feeling there is no Hope.
If that is true, than denial’s relationship with Hope is more along the lines as a door between your reality and true Hope.
And maybe it is Denial’s responsibility to insure Hope is difficult enough to get to that we don’t more easily slide into the wishful thinking side of the spectrum rather than the anticipation or expectation side of the spectrum.
“Hope, it is the quintessential human delusion, simultaneously the source of your greatest strength, and your greatest weakness.”
The Architect from The Matrix, Reloaded
Somewhere between hope and denial is where we usually seem to find the realism we need to shift Hope from false hope to real hope.
At least that’s what I think.
I had some help in this thinking. I grabbed one of my most used books on my bookshelf … The Essays of Montaigne … for a little guidance. I found it in an odd spot. In one of Montaigne’s 107 exploratory essays in one titled “That to Study Philosophy is to Learn to Die” <which I believe is actually a Cicero thought> Montaigne discusses Death & mortality … and points to the understanding of death as a prerequisite for the understanding of life, for the very art of living.
I read the essay and then went back and replaced Death with Denial.
Rather than indulging the fear of death <Denial>, Montaigne calls for dissipating it by facing it head-on, with awareness and attention:
[L]et us learn bravely to stand our ground, and fight him. And to begin to deprive him of the greatest advantage he has over us, let us take a way quite contrary to the common course. Let us disarm him of his novelty and strangeness, let us converse and be familiar with him, and have nothing so frequent in our thoughts as Denial<sic>. Upon all occasions represent him to our imagination in his every shape; at the stumbling of a horse, at the falling of a tile, at the least prick with a pin, let us presently consider, and say to ourselves, ‘Well, and what if it had been Denial itself?’ and, thereupon, let us encourage and fortify ourselves.
Let us evermore, amidst our jollity and feasting, set the remembrance of our frail condition before our eyes, never suffering ourselves to be so far transported with our delights, but that we have some intervals of reflecting upon, and considering how many several ways this jollity of ours tends to Denial, and with how many dangers it threatens it.
The Egyptians were wont to do after this manner, who in the height of their feasting and mirth, caused a dried skeleton of a man to be brought into the room to serve for a memento to their guests.
There is a thought, huh?
You have to face Denial and have some intervals of reflecting upon, and considering how many several ways this jollity of ours tends to Denial, and with how many dangers it threatens it.
Maybe this all suggests you have to actually find something about Hope to appreciate. It could be anything, even something tiny. And maybe that is where Denial serves its role … as Montaigne discussed Death maybe it is within our conflict with Denial in which we find that “something” that is meaningful and not simply some nebulous wishful thinking.
I balk at a coexisting relationship between Hope & Denial mostly because I struggle to believe you can effectively focus on the positive and the negative at the same time.
I balk at a coexisting relationship between Hope & Denial because hope, to me, is not simply the denial of reality.
I balk at a coexisting relationship between Hope & Denial because I believe Denial, when it occurs properly, may actually help someone navigate life to more, and better, Hope.
All that said.
I am not sure everyone walks paths of Life with signposts guiding them toward Denial on the way to some place called Hope but the ones who do recognize the signposts … I think that there isn’t really a line between denial and hope … I think that denial demands you run through it to get to Hope.
Maybe it would be better to say that you have to push your way through denial to get to good clean hope.
But that is me … that is the relationship to me.
I have never really gotten a grip on whether I think Hope is fragile or the strongest thing in the world. I think Hope can easily be killed and, yet, it can offer a light in the darkest of dark.
And maybe that is where Denial comes into play.
In an unexpected way maybe when you consider the number of unexpected things that could happen in each second of our fragile existences denial forges the strongest of our hopes so that they can withstand the darkest of dark and the grind of normality.