Some Possible Grounds for Hope

I don’t see how we get out of this. There is nothing truer that can be said of this time. It is a perverse measure of its truth that we have been inundated with books and bromides that purport to show the opposite, that have hit upon the way out, the solutions, or better, the solution, the formulas for the miracle, all the how’s and all the why’s. How can so many people understand so much and so immediately, when so many of our torments are so unfamiliar? Isn’t anybody stunned into silence anymore? So many words, so many numbers, so many “frames.” They are fortifying, I guess, and we certainly need strength. Let every-one come forward in the dark with their light. But I don’t see how we get out of this, not yet.  The empty streets of the covid nights are so candid in their desolation. They are thronged with the people who are not there. They provide a peculiar serenity, in which one can be alone with one’s fear, and take it for a walk. Philosophers since Seneca have known that fear and hope are twins. They are alternative ways of interpreting the opacity of the future.  If hope were rational, it would be redundant. Hope picks up where reason leaves off, like changing guides at the frontier. Hope is the best we can do with uncertainty. It is an image of happiness that cannot quite be dismissed as an illusion. If it cannot be proven, neither can it be disproven. Its enchantment lies in its cognitive limitation. It comes to an end with knowledge.  One of the characteristic errors of the American debate is to mistake the homiletical for the analytical — preaching for teaching. The objective of moral and social thought is not uplift. And

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