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Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Hope and Safety—the duality of human nature

Uncertainty fuels hope. Where there is certainty (as in insured funds in a bank account) hope is not prominent or even necessary. If instead of insured funds one has stock investments, then the exercise of hope is very necessary and real. In this sense, risky behavior can be seen as an addiction to hope—hope as an emotion is so valuable to a person that they intentionally choose risky portfolios. In this sense, risky behavior can be an attempt to experience hope. Often underprivileged youth are condemned for risky behavior, when in fact that behavior can be seen as an attempt to keep hope alive. In this case, the adoption of risk can be seen as a generator of hope. Certainty, in this case, represents the current nailed-down reality and the acceptance of despair. To shun despair and experience hope, risky sometimes illegal behavior is adopted. This, of course, does not only apply to the underprivileged or to youth. When we observe risky behavior anywhere, we should ask is this an attempt to keep hope alive. Now we must ask: is hope a basic human emotional need? To say “yes” would mean to admit that humans are inherently risk takers. The existence of the insurance industry testifies that people, if they are sometimes risk takers, are also concurrently risk adverse. In my view this duality is the real human condition—we want enough risk to experience hope, but enough certainty to experience safety. My plea is that when we confront law breakers, we ask if the basic human need for hope is a fundamental motivator. We should ask: what other options for hope present themselves? It’s easier to shake our heads than use them to help find solutions. Common sources of hope include education, sports, politics, and religion.

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