In the end, Ted Naifeh’s comic book series Princess Ugg is about making peace between different worlds: the rich lowlanders and the wild mountain dwellers, the mountain dwellers and the giants. In the end, after thousands of years of bloody war, red haired Princess Ulga talks with the giant chieftain about how the two peoples could live side by side. He says,
“I dunno why, girl, but yuh scares I more ‘n any bloodhead I ever met.”
“‘Tis because I’m offerin’ hope. Did yeh mither never tell yeh? ‘Tis hope makes yeh fear.”
I think Princess Ulga (Ugg is a nickname the lowlanders give her, though she accepts it) has a point. Over the last few weeks, my students have been designing new countries, new communities where they would want to live. When it comes to a growing wage gap, or prejudice, or a social order that abandons some groups, many of these students have said: “But that’s always going to happen. That’s inevitable.” I wish they were willing to hope a little more, and be afraid. I wish I was.
I’m not sure what “hope” means. Etymologically, it’s related to “trusting” the world and those around us, having “confidence” in the future, and “expecting” (or even assuming) that what we’ll get what we desire. I’m trying to arrange all of those meanings, and my own experiences, into a better understanding of hope. I haven’t done it yet.
But I know that, when I step back and assume that you and I will not be friends, that the world will only get crueler, that we can’t be anything but the worst of what we are now–when I lose hope, I’m less afraid. There’s less to be afraid about: less life, less value, less of a world. I’m less, in my own heart. Less interested. Less engaged. Less energetic. Less kind. Less in love, with others and myself.
Ulga reaches a helping hand to the world that has, in many ways, hurt her–which (of course) is the same world that has given her mountains to climb, freezing water to swim in, and friends to make. She knocks heads together, when she needs to. She stops when she can. She cries and does not hide her tears. She stands between two worlds, recognizing them both as real. She’s hurt, and has the courage to heal: not just herself, but the giants, who she knows have been hurt by the same war that took her mother’s life.
Hope makes her more afraid: afraid she’ll fall short of making peace. Afraid she’ll lose the friends she’s made. Hope makes her more alive: alive enough to make her world kinder, brighter, wider. So perhaps those fears are fears we should not fear to have.