"We would all be a lot better off letting go of hope and doing so because we are imbued with truth and the sparkling spirit of the path of Fearlessness."  It is more important to get to really deep--really real--to get to know and understand 'who we are', than to try to be more hopeful.  -rmf

And Mother Earth would also be a lot better off. We require in the midst of the severe cascading crises and extinctions of the 21st century, something 'way beyond' hope. The sooner we learn that lesson the better, for the time is drawing nigh for the Reconciliation. 

From the BEGINNING of my thinking and writing seriously about "In Search of Fearlessness Project" (since late-1989), I always had this mystical awareness of the work I was doing, more a calling and vocation, and that it was going to be a full-on assault of the notion of, and the discourses of, HOPE (and, what I see is an addictive and toxic form, too often a process of hope-mongering). Fear-mongering as it turns out and hope-mongering are two-sides of the same coin. 

Over the 30+ years since, I have refined this problem of hopeism that pervades the legacies of virtues ethics, developmental theories, moralism, and of just about the entire W. Dominant worldview's way of communicating. Our very modern 'self' is soaked in the rhetoric of "hope".... and, it's turning out to "failing" us all--and, consequences are severe.

I won't go into the depths of my original critique here [1], rather, I merely wanted to share a few recent things that have come across my desk, that reflect my own work on developing a "replacement therapia" (or call it a philosophical and collective cultural therapy) needed to re-vision and re-inform us all 'about who we are.' My first triggering moment in the last day on this issue came from a masters' students, in their 20s, writing a draft of their experience of joining the climate activists in our local community and then finding out what that really involved--that is, more than anything, a whole lot of "climate grief" and, yes, some healing too. Listening to this piece of writing of this nascent activist and their 'calling' to help the world, it was so good to hear the consciousness they brought to the problem of trying to solve wicked problems like global warming, and to change and transform politics--but also, I was so aware of how this young person (like so many) has just begun to take the lid off of a can of worms of immense 'Darkness' upon the earth right now, and which will get a whole lot worse before it gets better. I was thinking of this young person, reminded of myself at that age and becoming an environmental activist, and the myth of Pandora's Box. You know, its the ancient Greek myth (or earlier) historically that told of what happened to the world when one took the lid off--lifted the repression--tried to come awake--and, then was bombarded with all the great horrors of the world (individually and collectively)--all at once--and, of course it is overwhelming, but then so the myth goes (as I vaguely recall), IF one sticks in there and faces all the 'demons' and 'horror' --that is, all the fear and terror--then, there was one last thing to come out of the box, and it was HOPE. The question was then perhaps, and it is certain my question now--based on doubt, is there anything that HOPE can offer to solve the real issues of the day--in the 21st century? Is hope even useful anymore... once the world has slipped by, and passed over, the 'path of return' from the massive ecological devastation that has been wrought by millenia of not caring enough for this planet's sources of life--and gifts. We have abused Her too long. Her Box, like Pandora's Box, is now all coming out--the immense horrors of climate change and all related phenomenon--psychically and sociologically-- you name it. We are in the decline of civilization as we know it and there is no turning back. Oh, but wait, so the myth goes, there is still hope? Right? 

Now, to my next story, just came in an email this morning, as my colleague Four Arrows [2], an activist and Indigenous-based educator and transformer, shared with me his letter to a group of young people trying to transform higher education via their movement for "ecoversities" (i.e., universities with near total emphasis in their philosophy and curriculum geared toward solving the ecological problems on the planet). My colleague of course was admiring of this overall cause, but was critical that their latest conference theme was "HOPE." Hmmm... how interesting, and how troubling too. I won't cite the email letter here that my colleague wrote to them respectfully, but quite upfront a challenge for them to consider, as I paraphrase, he really said there is no evidence overall that "hope" as a virtue will be effective to the great transformation we require, and quite likely the same has been true of much of human history. He argues (and see his new book below) that the great activism that has arisen in spirit and in action, has been more or less always moved forward into the world because of something well 'beyond' hope--and, I see Four Arrows is articulating the basis of his critique of much of activism, and of traditional Enlightenment virtues, etc. His postcolonialist critical lens, like mine, sees through--and sees that "hope" is a side-tracking venture hooked to fear-based ways of thinking and identities. Hope is an illusion, he wrote. Okay, that's enough... I'm trusting this blog today will add to the current re-thinking so needed on the role of hope (and fear)--and, to replace hope with fearless(ness) or more accurately, what I call a "fearless standpoint" (e.g., see my writing on Four Arrows, in Fisher, 2018). Note, that Margaret Wheatley has written the Foreword for my colleagues book, and this doesn't surprise me one bit as she is a strong advocate of 'beyond hope' and towards a "fearless" perspective (and, yes, she is a Buddhist as well). 


The "replacement therapia" is a concept that still needs work, and yet, I thank my colleague for raising this issue again, as to a direction 'beyond hope'--and, to end this missive, it is worth repeating something in his email today, and that is, what he sees the Indigenous perspective (I situate as a fearlessness paradigm) has to offer as a great alternative--and, and it is the idea that we ought not be distracted by our need for hope (if not, our addiction to it)--and, rather focus on the process of "recovery" of our sanity which will involve our coming inquiry, our critique, our healing, and our re-visioning of our very nature here on this planet and beyond this planet--in the total Mystery. The more we do that work, the far less dependence we'll have on "hope" or "fear" or .... okay, you get the picture. Let's proceed with that deep quest of knowing... and, from my point of view, the "path of fearlessness" is as good a way to go as anything else, it may even be "better" because it has long ago left the dependency on hope, and even on courage.  


p.s. another who has rejected American "hope" pretty much, is the political journalist, Chris Hedges [3]



1. See my developed critique of the "hope-courage" discourses (in first-tier Fear Management Systems) in Fisher, R. M. (2010). The world's fearlessness teachings: A critical integral approach to fear management/education for the 21st century. Lanham, MD: University Press of America/Rowman & Littlefield.

2. See Fisher, R. M. (2018). Fearless engagement of Four Arrows: The true story of an Indigenous-based social transformer. NY: Peter Lang.

3. E.g., see "The Dangerous Fantasy of Hope Rooted in Self-Delusion." (2020)

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  • I think Michael that you have touched the core of one of the most mysterious dilemmas of humankind- hope. Truly it drives the minds in confusing yet believable manner. Most of its outcomes end in tragic despairs, only to be fortified by hope again. Perhaps, it is a sort of defence mechanism a la Freud, that infuses a euphoric sense of strength to the being. 
    I agree with you that we will be able to  better our existence and essence if we let go of hope. As you said, fear mongering is in a way akin to hope mongering. We hope when we feel that something is not in order at moment. So, we hope for the future without doing anything about the present status. Unseen there is embedded hope, which has displaced or transferred the existing unhappy moment to futuristic moment as defence mechanism. Hope entails fear.

    Four Arrows' version of hope is enlightening. Hope cannot perform the intended tasks in expected way unless there's coincidence randomly. Wheatley is perfect in observing that humanity must go beyond hope. 
    Your example of Pandora's Box is apt to discuss fearlessness in the light of hope. Epimetheus, the second man of Greek mythology after his brother Prometheus was punished by Zeus, the supremo of heavens, hands over a box to Pandora, the equivalent of Eve saying that Zeus ordered to not open it. But curious Pandora opens the box letting all the vices imprisoned inside escape out. As soon as she senses that she did something wrong, she closes the lid. By that time, it was too late. Everything flew off except hope. Hence people in general infer that one never loses hope as the last support (emotional) despite the loss of all other possessions. It can be interpreted here that hope is hidden inside the Pandora's Box. It lies as unknown and unseen entity. It can also be construed as uncertainty as no one outside the box knows what is all about uncertain hope. This element of the unknown gives rise to curiosity which in turn enables the individual to face uncertainty with the help of hope and in the process, fear is felt lurking. There are some studies which show that curiosity invites potentially painful results despite there is no certainty of benefits. 
    We can also draw similarities between Pandora's hope and fear. Both are mostly hidden with little visible peak ala iceberg. Both involve uncertain outcomes except for probable coincidences. Both are mostly irrational without logical basis of their standing. I used the word 'mostly' because some fears are rational. Some hopes are also rational which can be brought under the umbrella term of optimism. 
    Hope is largely seen as a spiritual construct since it is belief-oriented. Faiths invariably run on hope in order to minimise or allay fears in the faithfuls. Therefore, you are correct in saying that hope mongering and fear mongering are two sides of the same coin. But hope is thriving. Thomas Carlyle, the 19th century thinker referred to hope as the one with which man basically lives. English poet of 17th century, Joseph Edison once said that someone who lives by hope will die by hunger. Addison's comment implies that unless one struggles hard, hope alone cannot be of any help. However, hope in order to turn fear's form into that of fearlessness, needs to be refined and reshaped with structural transformation as what we know as optimism. Both the words and concepts of hope and optimism are generally used interchangeably. But over a period long research studies, some psychologists were able to differentiate between the two. Two American researchers Patricia Bruininks and Bertram Malle found in their experiments that hope doesn't entail proper personal control and hence the consequential poor results. They observed that optimism, on the other hand, entails a higher level of personal control and so positive outcomes ensue. Gabriele Oettingen, a German psychologist found optimism filled with positive expectations with confidence. What exactly makes hope to become optimism is the spirit of enquiry. Same logic is applied to to fear too. Rational approach to imaginaries leads to the path of fearlessness. Pandora's fear is still inside the box without seeing the light of the day. The vices that came out of the box like envy, prejudice, anger, lust etc are to some extent being subjected to scrutiny with the result that something good is happening. Envy is transformed into empathy by someone. Prejudice is changed to positive outlook. Anger needs to be converted to compassion and lust into love. So are hope and fear awaiting their modification for the good of the humanity. 
    Since the time of necessity to fearlessness viewpoint is being felt, as pioneered long back and is being relentlessly advocated by you, there are critical areas where paradigm shift is required in methods, definitions, meanings vis-a-vis purposes of human life. As discussed, one such area is hope based on unfounded notions. Hope becomes central to all religions at par with faith. Though it is confidence infusing benevolent institution, little bit more intrinsic exercise is further required from time to time and at present too, a la some reformation movements undertaken by Martin Luther or Ignatious Loyola or Calvin etc. I feel that the role and need of religion is immensely felt to better the human condition, but at the same time corrective methods are required because religions are not free of certain narrow minded thinkers, though their number is little but the impact of their interpretations of the texts make the gullible faithfuls fearful but full of unproductive hope. 
    it was this kind of need a century or so ago that led people like Calvin to interpret Bible in a positive manner so that people would get rid of fear of investing in economic ventures. Max Weber theorised that this kind of new ethics in Protestantism gave rise to the spirit of capitalism in the then Western Europe. It could be understood that some catholic majority countries didn't see requisite economic development yet because of their too much of dependence on hope of traditional nature. Hence modernism requires critique of the past ways as said by Octavio Paz, the Nobel prize winning writer. Lack of critique of the texts is one of the reasons for the perpetual subordination of humankind to fear. As Protestant ethics turned hope into optimism, so did people turn their fear into fearlessness during the period of western industrialisation. 

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