Adolf Hitler, in his last few days, before the Fall of Berlin, thanked, amongst others, a nurse who was caring for the wounded. The nurse, according to the diaries of Traudl Junge, broke down and asked the Fuhrer to “preserve our belief in the final victory.”
I saw Der Untergang (The Downfall) tonight. There is more to this movie than just this one moment, yet, this one moment stood out for me.
In the worst of the times when all that you see around you is hopelessness, making such a statement to a leader who has given up, in any case, makes for an interesting philosophical situation.
What is interesting is that this character asks for a ‘preservation of belief’. This phrase, however, provokes that lazy lump in the left corner of your mind.
What the nurse is actually crying out loud for is to reinforce her hope of victory. While most folks are making their way out of Berlin, escaping the inevitable, she has chosen to stay back and help the wounded. Soldiers, amongst them. What makes her stay back, you can’t help but wonder, but are sure to make a correct guess.
Is it her crumbling “belief”, which she asks her leader to preserve, or is it “hope” that victory, in spite of the reality that spills unabated blood on her hands, will be theirs?
This isn’t a question of belief. Because, belief, you see is an inherent acceptance of the concept. Belief becomes one with your constitution. It seems to me that the nurse got the cousins mixed up. Belief and conviction are cousins Hope isn’t in the same family. Hope’s cousin is desire. A mere wish. Yet the constitution of hope is such, it sometimes wields more strength than belief can.
Hope, it is the quintessential human delusion, simultaneously the source of your greatest strength, and your greatest weakness. ~ The Architect, in The Matrix Reloaded.
Delusion it is.
Hope, is fraught with fear, tentativeness and suspicion, the act itself an empty prayer invoking obscure powers to change terrifying reality. Belief, on the other hand, while having no inherent power to change reality either, affects reality in a way that it becomes susceptible to change. Conviction shines through, almost blinding reality in a way that it has to take a few steps back, allowing a small window for you to bend the rules of reality.
I have often seen the weak, moth-eaten fabric of hope tearing slowly at the sides and the middle as it makes its case for a hopeless cause. You can sense the tentativeness of a foot in either boat, balancing a slur of a walk. In a war-like situation, when the stakes are high, hope isn’t enough to help reinforce the strength required to tackle all that can bring you down. Belief is.
In The Downfall, the dialogue is very well placed (and I hope the translation does justice, being relevant and uses the correct English equivalent).
Which does bring me to another of my top-rated movies of all time – The Shawshank Redemption. Andy Dufresne says, “Remember Red, hope is a good thing, maybe the best of things, and no good thing ever dies.” While it will remain my top-rated movie of all times, I think Andy was talking of belief. If it was hope; a desire, a wish, he wouldn’t have “worked” on his escape. He couldn’t have talked of a hayfield in in Buxton about a rock that doesn’t belong there. The one time when he was really hopeful, however, and this is the distinction, was when Tommy Williams talks of the convict that could possibly help Andy clear himself. That is hope – an empty prayer invoking obscure powers to change terrifying reality.
Sometimes, I feel it is just easy to say, I hope, than to say, I believe. That, perhaps is the reason there is so much hope in this world.