Bracing for President Trump with thoughts on hope from Vaclav Havel

Source: Chicago Now / / By Kim Z Dale /

As we enter the era of  President Donald Trump, who I expect will be one of my least favorite world leaders (Go ahead an prove me wrong, DT!), I reflect on a quote from on of my favorite world leaders, Vaclav Havel. Havel was a dissident playwright who became President of Czechoslovakia and then of the Czech Republic after the split from Slovakia. While awaiting with trepidation this incoming U.S. presidential administration I started rereading some of Havel’s writing in search of useful wisdom. This quote from an essay titled “Never Hope Against Hope” seems rather appropriate:

Hope is definitely not the same thing as optimism. It’s not the conviction that something will turn out well, but the certainty that something makes sense, regardless of how it turns out. It is this hope, above all, that gives us strength to live and to continually try new things, even in conditions that seem as hopeless as ours do, here and now. In the face of this absurdity, life is too precious a thing to permit its devaluation by living pointlessly, emptily, without meaning, without love, and, finally, without hope.

For the record, this inspirational story follows a story about Havel falling into shit. Literally. And although most of us (hopefully) have never fallen into a sewer it’s a pretty apt metaphor for how many of us feel right now.

Havel’s essay originally appeared in the October 1993 issue of Esquire (and can be read in it’s entirety here). However, phrases like “in the face of this absurdity” make me feel like he is talking about our current situation

In the same essay Havel also wrote:

But history is not something that takes place elsewhere; it takes place here. We all contribute to making it. If bringing back some human dimension to the world depends on anything, it depends on how we acquit ourselves in the here and now.

So no matter what happens let’s strive to make better histories by living with meaning, love, and hope. Let’s not allow ourselves to live pointlessly in the face of this absurdity. Let’s try not to fall into the shit.

The Vaclav Havel Center