Hope & Fear

In what was to become his final published work, The Passions of the Soul, Rene Descartes, wrote about the complementarity of hope and fear; especially in the face of the unknown. In his own words, he said “the mere fact of thinking that a good may be acquired or an evil avoided is sufficient to produce the desire for this to come to pass.”

What he was referring to was the innate ability for all humans to believe. To believe that if we do enough, work enough, try enough, good will happen. Often, this even includes the belief that wishing well or doing good deeds can result in positive outcomes. If for no other reason than harmony, hope is often accompanied by fear. The fear that bad things might happen or things may not work out the way we anticipate. Living on the extremities of either hope or fear can be debilitating even for the bravest. To quote Descartes again “when hope is so strong that it altogether drives out fear, its nature changes and it becomes complacency.”

The masters, therefore, ask you to break out of the tyranny of the trap of fear and hope. Both transport you to another time – either the past or the future. Neither is real. Fear often originates from events past or the anticipation of what is to come. Hope often focuses on the belief that surely in the future the heavens will part, and the ensuing tide will lift your boat to take it to where you desire. Why, therefore, should you not be building your boat?

The answer is relatively simple. The only reality you possess is now. You could be using that time building boats or escaping the cycle altogether. Before you cry escapism, let me reassure you that this is far from it. The ability to escape this cycle rests on the ultimate hope – that there is an escape to this cycle.


Ritesh is a born again health enthusiast and holds a Certificate in Physiology from Harvard Medical School and a Certificate in Nutrition from Tufts University.