Shawshank

A Time For Hope And Renewal

The winter of 2014 has been difficult for many people. Our economic recovery continues to be sluggish. The world news is full of war, poverty, and human rights violations. Divorce, infidelity, addiction, crime, abuse… it sounds pretty grim. Spring is often referred to as a time of hope and renewal. Is it reasonable to be optimistic in the Spring of 2014?

I’m reminded of a favorite movie, The Shawshank Redemption. The wealthy banker Andy Dufresne (played by Tim Robbins) was imprisoned for a double murder he did not commit. Unlike the other prisoners at Shawshank, he was truly innocent. Andy became friendly with another prisoner and convicted murderer, Red (Morgan Freeman). During one scene, after Andy did a stretch in solitary confinement, he had a memorable conversation with Red. He explained his strategy for surviving the isolation of solitary confinement. He focused on the music his mind could play from memory – and the hope he maintained for redemption and freedom.

Andy: there’s… there’s somethin’ inside that they can’t get to; that they can’t touch. It’s yours.

Red: What are you talkin’ about?

Andy: Hope.

Red: Hope? Let me tell you something, my friend. Hope is a dangerous thing. Hope can drive a man insane. It’s got no use on the inside. You’d better get used to that idea.

Andy refused to succumb to pessimism or despair. His survival strategy was based in the belief that things can and will get better. And he manifested his intention to make things better – from building a first class library for the prisoners, to planning and executing an escape while implicating corrupt prison officials. As Andy implemented his escape plan he said “Hope is a good thing, maybe the best of things, and no good thing ever dies.”

Life is full of choices. We can choose Red’s philosophy that hope is unrealistic and dangerous – it leads to disappointment and frustration. Red’s beliefs have been shared by many others – for example, Nietzsche once said that “Hope in reality is the worst of all evils because it prolongs the torments of man.” Certainly, acceptance of current circumstances can be a healthy practice. It’s important not to struggle against reality. Forcing a change when there’s truly nothing to be done can cause unnecessary frustration and heartache.

Andy’s philosophy includes a type of acceptance born of hope. We can accept current circumstances, and we can choose to be open to creative solutions at the same time. We can empower ourselves to find solutions through positive action based on optimism and hope. Toward the end of the movie Andy said this: “I guess it comes down to a simple choice, really. Get busy livin’ or get busy dyin’.” Our hope for you during this season of change and rebirth is hope itself. That we will thrive – not just survive – with courage, optimism, and a true intention to create a better life, better relationships, and a better world.