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PANDORA DIDN'T DO US ANY FAVORS. Legend says she slammed the lid shut on the box of evils she had opened before Hope could fly out. Now, what was Hope doing in a container full of evils? Why would the gods have included Hope among "all the Spites that plague mankind: such as Old Age, Labour, Sickness, Insanity, Vice, and Passion" (Graves 1955:145), unless Hope was an evil itself? All the other troubles flew out of the container and attacked the race of mortals, while Hope became the evil "that remains within" (Hillman 1964:154). It is an evil that we hold onto and protect in order to delude ourselves into thinking that the present moment cannot be as good as what the future holds.
When we have hope we look forward with expectation to a good outcome. But while we are imagining positive results in the future, we are, at the same time, ignoring what is happening in the here and now. It may be that what is happening here and now isn't so wonderful; maybe it's uncomfortable, boring, disturbing, or even painful. We might think that the only way we can get through a difficult period is to have faith that things will get better, to hope that some day soon our suffering will be alleviated. The future, however, is always uncertain and unpredictable. The here and now is the only place and time we can be in, the only place and time we can effect change, and the only place and time we can appreciate life for what it is.
Hope takes us away from living in the present and from experiencing whatever uncomfortable feelings we have now. Hope denies those uncomfortable feelings, as though we had nothing to gain from being who we are at every moment, including painful moments. No one wants to suffer, but given that suffering is a part of living, we can be true to ourselves only when we live our lives consciously, moment by moment, without expectations, without hope.
Giving up hope does not mean giving in to despair. It is only when we hope for a certain outcome and are disappointed that we feel despair. When we are able to live in the present moment as much as possible, then we can experience hope in a detached way. It is inevitable that hope for various outcomes will crop up in our lives. With a detached attitude, however, we can observe the development of those expectations and eventually recognize hope as a delusion that pulls us away from the present. When we are ready, we can let go of the expectations and return to reality.
Even in circumstances of extreme suffering, hope is not needed and can even be harmful. In his memoir and analysis of concentration camp life, Man's Search for Meaning, Viktor Frankl describes two types of reactions among the inmates. Most of them became apathetic and gave in to despair. Others, however, chose their own attitude regarding their situation and accepted their circumstances as an opportunity to take responsibility for their life in the present moment "in right action and in right conduct" (1959:98). These people, according to Frankl, were able to grow spiritually despite daily deprivation, humiliation, and torture. Each inmate in this second group eventually accepted his or her suffering as a unique personal task and came to the …