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Triumph of hope over experience

Just seeing the sun breaking through gloomy clouds and settling on some pretty flowers in your garden can spark the hope that is intrinsic to humans.

Just seeing the sun breaking through gloomy clouds and settling on some pretty flowers in your garden can spark the hope that is intrinsic to humans.

Published Oct 30, 2021

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Even in truly horrible times, the human spirit needs hope as much as lungs need oxygen.

It’s remarkable how, even if you are running out of faith, health, belief in your fellow man, failing someone or something, a tiny ember of hope can spark the impetus to pick yourself up and keep putting one foot in front of the other.

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Experience, good or bad, cannot be bought, copied or shared. It is yours alone, but it is learned and can take a lifetime to gather.

Many decades ago, I started, but never earned, a BA in journalism through Unisa. At the time, I was getting the most wonderful, broad, all-encompassing experience you can get in any career – a hands-on, learn-to-do-everything in every department and every job.

This encompassed, among many other things, reception; selling advertising (I was rubbish); designing and making up ads with wax, photographic paper and sharp box-cutters, a box of plaster nearby for us beginners; writing stories on old typewriters and getting red-pen-filled scrunched-up balls of my prose thrown in my direction by an editor insisting it be redone. Then (my secret favourite) pasting wax-backed strips of paper on grids which were photographed, and the plates were washed and turned your hands (and your plasters) blue until the next edition, and it started all over.

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The exams started on production day, and so that never happened.

But what did happen was I was introduced to an extraordinary little book. I thought I deserved extra credits just for learning the title: Existential Phenomenology and the World of Ordinary Experience: An Introduction by Paul T Brockelman.

Sadly, it seems to be lost amid my thousands of books, but it’s a complex philosophy that basically says two or more people in the exact same situation, or looking at the same thing, will experience it differently. The essence of that thing or action will be interpreted in light of the observer’s life experiences.

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It’s very complicated, and I, um, hope there’s not an academic lurking to leap on my lean layman’s knowledge.

But hope, in spite of experience which may tell you otherwise, no matter how you look at it, is also an essential survival skill that cannot be taught. It is intrinsic to humans, and it takes some epic calamity to deplete the supply.

Until it is drained, every day comes with the hope that things will improve.

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Some hopes are seemingly small ‒ the sun will shine; the birds nesting in your tree will finally reveal their chicks; you’ll see fresh leaves budding in your garden; you’ll hear from a friend you may have lost contact with. These are the little things that put a smile in your heart.

Then there are the Big Ones: today, I’ll find a job; today, I’ll find the love of my life; today, there will be no more terrible news of another person you love getting ill or dying. Eskom won’t suddenly announce stage 4 blackouts.

Some are life-changing: I’ll get better; my child will find a donor; we’ll be together tonight, safe and laughing around the dinner table.

It’s our superpower: the triumph of hope over experience. Cling to it with all your might.

  • Lindsay Slogrove is the news editor

The Independent on Saturday

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