Sunday’s Wisdom #412: The Meaning of Hope

“Things don’t get better. Things get worse.”
– Colonel Grigio, Warm Bodies

The plot of Warm Bodies involves a zombie apocalypse, with humans fighting desperately to survive by killing all the zombies whilst the zombies are killing all the humans just because. Then one zombie begins to come back alive again, a single moment of love making his heart begin to beat, and it spreads throughout the dead population, bringing most of them back. The world ends up saved, exhumed from its own grave, but it very nearly ended right at the beginning, when Colonel Grigio nearly shot that first zombie in the head. He was forced to live in a world that has ended, that was in its death throes, and, as part of that, he had to accept the grim reality of things. On some level, that left him in despair, unable to accept… hope. As is manifested in these words he utters when first presented with a zombie who is coming alive again.

Fortunately, first he was stopped by someone else, and then he was convinced. It took a near-miraculous demonstration right in front of his eyes, but he was convinced. He was able to change. Which was the ultimate divider between the living – and those who came back alive – and the dead: the ability to change. To learn and come alive again despite being dead. That is the essence of hope. It’s not just the belief that things can or will get “better” in some way, but that people can change and be saved. Even if things do get worse.

The reason this quote speaks so powerfully to me is how basically human and universal it is. I mean, I couldn’t begin to count the times we’ve been told how everything is getting worse. It’s easy to see the catastrophes all over the globe, it’s easy to see all the evil at work in the world, and it’s easy to see the many, many ways in which our society is crumbling. It is so easy to lose hope, to resign ourselves and our world to misery, to give up on anything ever getting better, in short, to stop living. It is difficult to see why we should even keep going. But that is only one side of things, and there is more.

Yes, a lot of things are getting worse and worse every day, and that will probably continue. But there are other things which are getting better, or, even more, just staying good, no matter what. How many stories do we see of everyday heroes stepping up, going out of there way, coming up with something to do the impossible and which they get no benefit from? There is still a basic goodness in people, even now, which will never be entirely snuffed out.

If things get worse, and worse, and worse, then humans will change, adapt, and overcome as we always have. It may – and probably will – get grim, as people are dragged out of their comfort zone and thrown from the very lap of luxury into desperate circumstance, and not everyone survives that. But it is my hope, there are plenty who will adapt and will survive and will keep their humanity as they do so. That even in the darkest hours ahead, love will endure, and broken societies rise from their own ashes to shine brightly again before the entire world.

Things will get better, in time. We will make it so. Day by day, step after step.

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