Seth Brown | The pun also rises: Audacious, befeathered, and eternally springy

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Admittedly, it's easy to lose hope when the first few days of the year include an entire continent being on fire and our president doing his best to provoke global war.

But I know a thing or two about hope. I was born and raised in Rhode Island, whose state motto is "Hope." (Smallest state, smallest motto. Cool, right?) And so I know that even in the darkest winter, hope persists. No matter what evils are unleashed, hope will be waiting to keep us afloat. I learned that from the myth of Pandora, who opened a box that unleashed untold horrors upon the world, but then at the bottom, she found an internet radio station that builds itself based on music you like.

Because hope can be found on the Internet. I think Alexander Pope probably spent years hoping for Internet porn, writing "Hope springs eternal in the human breast." That's Pope on Hope, one of Dr. Seuss's least popular books. And far from the only poet to opine on the topic. Emily Dickinson once penned half of the immortal lines:

"Hope" is the thing with feathers -

That perches in the soul -

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"Anxiety," meanwhile, has scales -

And makes us seek a bowl.

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But the idea remains that hope is indefatigable, doggedly persisting in much the same way that I do when it comes to using words with even more syllables than "refrigerator" when I could have just as easily said that hope never dies. We all have our addictions.

And now we hope to give them up. New Year's resolutions are constructed largely out of hope. For me, they're specifically the hope that I will suddenly become a different person than I've been for the past few decades. This other person will exercise regularly, only eat healthy food, avoid watching dumb TV shows, write diligently on a daily basis without ever getting distracted, and never say anything negative. In other words, this person will bear absolutely no resemblance to me whatsoever. And yet I hope I will suddenly transform as the year flips over. That is some serious audacity of hope.

But I seem to have the capacity of nope. I am still hiding in my room from winter, eating my own weight in cheese, watching trash on Netflix instead of writing my next book, and being so negative that electrons view me as a role model. In fact, the only thing I *have* accomplished so far this year is keeping hope alive. (But not Bob Hope, sorry.)

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A friend recently asked me for some hope in the face of the terrible global events kicking off the year. I said that I believe that if we can somehow help people rediscover their sense of empathy, we might make things a little better. I still believe that most of the world's problems can be traced to a lack of empathy, and audaciously, I hope that we might ameliorate the situation by somehow reminding people of their shared humanity, and getting them to view other people as people deserving of empathy.

You might argue that such hopes make me an idealistic fool. Actually, love did. It's much easier to be an optimist when you're in love. But also, love is a great teacher of empathy, because we instinctively empathize with those we love. Perhaps this is why "Love thy neighbor as thyself" pops up repeatedly in the Bible. (Although you should first be very sure that your neighbor consents, depending on your style of self-love.)

But even if love is a tall order, empathy isn't. People of every race, religion, and country, are just people like us, and it shouldn't be a stretch for us to try to view things from their perspective. I hope that understanding can be improved by appreciating art and culture from others and seeing how relevant it is to our own lives. In other words, maybe hope IS Internet radio.

Just watch out for the feathers.

Seth Brown is an award-winning humor writer, the author of "From God To Verse," and hopes that 2020 starts getting better soon. His website is RisingPun.com.


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