After Hope

On the flight home from ISI’s Honors Program conference in Richmond last week, I read Josef Pieper’s essay On Hope.

Like everything that Pieper—the late German Thomist and the man whom Pope Benedict XVI once listed as one of his three greatest philosophical influences—has written, this essay was profound. In particular, Pieper poignantly captures the relationship between hope and youthfulness:

Youth and hope are ordered to one another in manifold ways. They belong together in the natural as well as supernatural sphere. The figure of youth is the eternal symbol of hope…nothing more eminently preserves and founds “eternal youth” than the theological virtue of hope.

As Saint Augustine so aptly says: “God is younger than all else.”

Pieper’s words reminded me of a beautiful passage from the chapter “The Ethics of Elfland” in Chesterton’s masterful Orthodoxy:

[P]erhaps God is strong enough to exult in monotony. It is possible that God says every morning, “Do it again” to the sun; and every evening, “Do it again” to the moon. It may not be automatic necessity that makes all daisies alike; it may be that God makes every daisy separately, but has never got tired of making them. It may be that He has the eternal appetite of infancy; for we have sinned and grown old, and our Father is younger than we.

I like this idea, this imagery. They resonate with me, though I’m not sure how to tie them into a larger point relevant to the Student Voices forum.

Maybe I can claim that as religious faith is incrementally banished from the spaces and places of common life, there is nobody left in whom to hope; and without hope, our nation sinks into the malaise and lethargy that Nietzsche so bluntly posited of modernity:

“Indeed, we have already become too weary to die; now we continue to wake and we live on – in burial chambers!”