Fierce Hope

December 23, 2021

Abandon hope

all ye who enter here.
Inscribed above
the gates of Hell.

He woke up the next morning with a hangover and a bar napkin he had signed accepting a bet to hitchhike around Ireland with a refrigerator. Tony Hawks’ journey garnered much media attention and his subsequent book, Round Ireland With A Fridge, is a light hearted read. Twelve years later another man would hitchhike around Ireland with a very different intention.

In the wake of the Celtic Tiger and collapse of the Irish economy, Ruairí McKiernan decided to find out where there was hope among the Irish people so he travelled Ireland by thumb collecting reflections, insights, and stories. His book, Hitching For Hope, is the story of that quest and a great read. 

When Ruairí first mentioned this project to friends they were critical. Why was he wasting his time on such idealism when there were social justice issues that demanded attention and action? They suggested that focusing on hope would undermine the fire required for these battles.

As I’ve been writing and talking about hope, especially in this season, I’ve heard the same criticism. There is work to be done, they say. When people focus on hope they become passive spectators waiting for someone else to save us, they say. Thoughts and prayers are not enough, they admonish. 

Wow. I couldn’t disagree more vehemently. Abandon hope all ye who enter here. Dante placed that inscription over the literal gates of Hell. I see those words emblazoned over the figurative gates of Hell, a Hell that characterizes much of our current social, political, cultural, and environmental landscapes. Abandoning hope is a sentiment that colludes with the narrative shaped by political and corporate forces, a narrative that leaves us railing against these forces of power on a battlefield they create, define, and control. Abandon all hope, for that leaves us both hopeless and helpless. Abandon all hope, for that focuses our precious energies and resources fighting against something vast, powerful, and complex. It’s exhausting. In all this fighting against, we can lose sight of what we are fighting for.

And that is the critical and essential value of hope. Hope allows us to shape a vision of what we want, rather than what we don’t want. Hope fosters the imagination and creativity of bold and exciting visions and actions. Hope fuels our fire for social justice. Hope fuels our passion.

If we are cautioned to abandon hope at the gates of Hell, we would be advised to embrace hope at the gates of Heaven. Especially the heaven we seek to create on Earth.

What we need more than ever is hope. Fierce hope.


Judith –