Friday, February 10, 2012


Our days on earth are like a shadow, without hope I Chronicles 29:15b

Hope. It's not a very big word, nor an uncommon one. Most four year olds know it, and perhaps have it in 
greater supply than the rest of us who have graduated to adulthood, pragmatism, and post-Santa-beliefdom.

Barak Obama recently used hope as part of his presidential race;  perhaps rightly divining how important this little four letter word is to American voters; nay humanity. Interestingly, another president claims Hope, AR as his birthplace.

Years ago I read Viktor Frankl's book "Man's Search for Meaning", in which the author witnessed the deaths of many fellow prisoners in Auschwitz during the second world war. Frankl became able to predict the death of fellow prisoners within a day or two of them losing hope. Many had no injury or illness that would have obviously caused death. The loss of hope itself was the catalyst to their demise.

Hope, or more accurately the concept of hope, has been a  increasingly in the forefront of my mind lately. This week I became aware of two people in my life who are facing grim health prospects. Hope indeed is a precious commodity in a culture where our faith in science and test results all but guarantees the outcome.

Today over lunch with a friend we talked about a mutual friend who just returned from a short-term missionary trip to Ukraine, teaching English there to people who seldom smile and have little hope. It has been displaced by suspicion and cynicism from decades of oppression by the former Soviet Union. 

Conversely my own experience with short term mission trip to Tanzania last year placed me in a culture of optimism, even though the population has been ravaged by the pandemic of HIV/AIDs. The average person there lives on less than a dollar a day, yet people smile and are helpful; even to strangers like me. Most of them are farmers, which I suppose one could argue is proof enough that they have hope. 

I have stood in the hospital room of  a young man as the machines that kept him alive were turned off; hope was extinguished by the flip of a switch. 

I have held the hand a Tanzanian in the last stages of AIDs, and prayed with her - and hope was strong. 

This is what I have observed; hope is tangible, yet ethereal. Necessary,but rare. Priceless, yet commoditized. 

Perhaps it is precisely because of these qualities that we are drawn to fishing. The desire to be connected to life-force, if only through a gossamer thread, and only for a moment. That thought that the next cast, the next pool , the next drift, could yield that electric connection to life.  Perhaps that is why we go. We go with the intent of experiencing hope - because it is essential to life. 

The charm of fishing is that it is the pursuit of what is elusive but attainable, a perpetual series of occasions for hope.  ~John Buchan


Justin Parker said...

Read Man's Search for Meaning last semester...some pretty powerful stuff. Like your thoughts on hope :)

Mark said...

Thanks bro - much more could be said, but when a topic keeps being brought to my attention over and over in a given week, it seems unlikely that it is happenstance...

Anonymous said...

Hi, found your blog and followed. JGR

Mark said...

Thanks JGR - followed back!