The next chapter I read in The Art of Living is also written by Dietrich’s widow Alice von Hildebrand and it’s on the subject of hope. In it, she begins by diagnosing despair as “the consciousness of a metaphysical calling, a metaphysical destiny left unfulfilled.” And she argues that whenever a person despairs and says about his life, “It’s too late”, this betrays a lack of confidence “in the eternal renewal of the generous creativity of God.”
Much of this chapter made me reflect on euthanasia and those who are seeking it. Hildebrand writes, “We can understand why the man who prefers his own despair to being helped out of it, far from being free in the deepest sense of the term, is actually imprisoned in the cramp of an ego that has become a caricature of an imago Dei; shrunken in itself, turning ceaselessly upon itself, it is like a man in prison, who instead of trying to liberate himself, willingly binds and gags himself.”
How to avoid despair and persevere in hope?
Hildebrand thinks that the ability to confide one’s destiny into the hands of Another constitutes the essence of hope. A despairing person will not do this, will refuse to do this. He will, she explains, settle for his despair — preferring desperation rather than dependency on the help and accompaniment of another.
By contrast, love draws a person out of himself, enables him to count on another, and shatters despair through cultivating the intense hope in transcendent reality that gives the world its true meaning.
This is the most beautiful paragraph of the chapter:
When the deepest human experiences are threatened (for example, when the life of a beloved person is in danger) human beings are often led to discover their capacity to hope. It is as if the intensity of love helped one to remove a crust of self-centred indifference that prevents men from realizing that hope is the foundation of our human existence.
The hope of Christians is in Christ who so loved the world that He redeemed us from our sins, trampled down death by death, and has loved us with an everlasting love.