Aristotle said, ”Hope is a waking dream.” Of course there is a significant difference between damaged life expectations and that precious life giving facility we call hope.
There was a time when kids would be asked, “What do you want to be when you grow up?” A decade ago not many would have said “I want to be like Mark Zuckerberg and design something like facebook.” We now know something like seventy per cent of the jobs and vocations that will be enacted 10 years from now, haven’t even been dreamed of yet. We also know that imagining ourselves into the future is one of the significant ways that our identity gets shaped. Erik Erikson called it ”our anticipated selves”.
Many street kids, are alienated from a sense of significant future. In the words of anthropologist Walter B. Miller, “They feel that their lives are subject to a set of forces over which they have no control.” Sadly, this inner life expectation carries with it an implicit sense of futility about being directed towards any kind of life goal.
In another era it seems we took our cues from the past; hence the old John Wayne westerns and war movies. It all gave the traditionally orientated male a sense of security knowing that his roles and values had tenure. But that has all changed, and much of it for the better. However a case could be put that what are called the “sociological inputs” that affect the sense of male confidence and self continuity in the process of male identity formation, have been considerably shaken if not demolished .
It is also been shown that another important foundation for identity is the establishment of long-range goals. According to social psychologist Gordon Allport “Goals must be striven for, because striving always has a future self defining reference, an aspiration.” This emerging self-image helps us bring our view of ourselves into the present, in line with a view of us in the future. It seems by the end of our third year of life we have already begun to comprehend future roles. The role of parents in shaping these expectations has now clearly been seen to be profound. Recent research in Michigan has shown the most powerful factor connected with a child’s academic progress , is the parent’s image of the child’s future. As children become attached to believable and desirable future life roles , certain life scripts are, for good or ill, already being set.
Aaron Sorkin who wrote the script for the latest movie ‘Social network’ reflecting on the socially inept Mark Zuckerburg character said ”We all get told we’re a loser ,and how healthy you are as an adult depends on how much you believe it” There are at least two major orientations in therapy. One is that the past shapes us with a certain degree of inevitability, the other is called the teleological approach which believes there is something profound in the human spirit that makes it want to transcend its limitations – to go beyond what is , to become what might be. However, the spiritual part needs support and mentoring in swimming against the tide of the internal script. The good news is when the spirit comes alive and we have the right company and mentors, the potential us can emerge. So biography doesn’t have to be destiny. In the words of Eric Fromm ”To hope means to be ready at every moment for that which is not yet born.” Hope is that pivotal spiritual difference between being trapped in the past, or being ready, as Fromm says , “at every moment for that which is not yet born.”
Of course hope comes from our human spirit, and when nourished by God’s Spirit we find inner strength and purpose that enables us to rise to meet life’s challenges. Sad to say the very thing “at risk” young people need most of all, is missing from our mass media, and political and educational systems. The very environment that should be nourishing is alienating . This is the main reason I am convinced we need, at the very least, skilled chaplains in the schools. As it says in the Old Book” The hope set before us is like an anchor for our lives.”- Hebrews 6:19