“One can never know true despair without hope,” says Bane, when he drops Bruce Wayne a.k.a. Batman in the pit-like prison. The prison is almost inescapable. But it offers a clear view of the sky above, or as Bane implies, it offers hope. Many have previously tried to escape the prison, only to die trying.
Does it mean that hope itself really does kill? Does it mean that hope is the root cause of human suffering? Does this mean that if people never hoped for anything, they could live a happier, more satisifying life, free of worries and fear of failure and despair?
I do not think so. Simply because there is no reason to believe that. Despair, or at least a state of hopelessness, may seem really attractive to cynics and nihilists, who think that there is no point in anything anyway. But a curious thing that should not escape our attention is the general observation that most of these modern proponents and believers of nihilism lead comfortable, if not privileged lives. So, in my view, their cynicism is not justified and carries little weight.
It is only when one asks a commoner, or a person who works hard, every single day, that one understands why hope is such a powerful emotion. They sacrifice their prime years working and slaving away, in the hope that what they lose in time today, they will gain in comfort tomorrow. Is that not an example of hope? Does it not, at least in part, negate the motion?
Do I know I will live long enough to retire with a 3BHK in Bangalore, sipping Dalgona coffee with a Siberian Husky sitting near my foot? No. I cannot be sure of that. How could I be! What if I fall down a flight of stairs, hurt my head and suffer brain damage? There goes Bangalore.
But does this mean I should not even dream? Does it mean I should just resign to fate, give up on the dream, leave behind all my worldly possessions and relations and become a Sanyasi? No. I do not think so. Following the simple principle of Kant’s “universalizability”, this action is not permissible. I should probably explain what that means.
The principle of universalizability states that “if your actions, if performed by everyone in the world, would result in a net positive, then the action is morally justifiable.”
Pursuing to this principle, such behaviour is not sustainable beyond a few generations. So, clearly, we must embrace the uncertainty of like and transcend our fear of the future and be hopeful.
But, equally clear is the fact that there must be a line. Groundless hope is the one limit I place. One must never lose one’s mind in blind optimism. Every utopia is an exaggerated dream-like situation, that is most commonly conceived to play on people’s innermost desires. Whatever the utopian dream was, a racial pure paradise, as promised by the Third Reich, or a state where everyone would be equal, as was to be ushered by the Soviet revolutionaries, or even Dar-ul-Islam spread globally by the might of the sword, it always comes at unimaginable costs. These “terms and conditions” are almost never clear and are never even disclosed to the masses, lest they lose hope as soon as sense prevails. This is partly why I have no illusions about any kind of utopian dreams being practicable.
Hope, like most other emotions, must be tempered in the fires of logic, reason and rationality, by the best of blacksmiths, before being used in the war that is life. One must always be wary of extreme hope and extreme despair.
To return to the situation I had alluded to, in the beginning, of Bruce’s predicament, was he wrong in thinking that he could escape and return to beloved Gotham? No. He had the fortitude to try to escape and he had the strength to actually do so. But, the reader must answer this quesion: Would he have done it had he never hoped?