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Being a Description of the World

By Eli Siegel

line Hope

Hope is pleasure from feeling that pleasure may come. 

     Hope is beneath all instinct, or desire; that is, all life. Our bodies or our selves keep on living because we think that good or pleasure can come from our living. Life is a belief in life, or if you wish, a faith in life; and, no matter how sentimental it may sound, hope is biology, biology is hope. To desire pleasure means that we hope we can get it.

     To desire to live means that we hope our life will be all right, pleasurable, meaningful, proper. Beneath all drives, is a belief in them, that is, hope. The circulation of the blood and the heartbeat are the physiological representations of inarticulate hope.

     It is well, though, to look at the word in a more specific, ordinary way.—Sam hopes he will get along well with Annabel. This means Sam hopes he will get pleasure from Annabel. In so far as he hopes, Sam has pleasure already. The more he hopes, the more pleasure he has. But the pleasure is about possible pleasure. The thought of possible pleasure is, then, pleasing now.

     However, since Sam hopes, he also fears. He remembers certain things about Annabel, and he has been told some. He can't put these altogether out of his mind. Besides, he doesn't know just how good Annabel would be for him. So we find that the hope has fear with it, which means that the hope, as pleasure, has along with it fear, as pain. And we find further that the hope and fear have along with them knowing and not knowing. As the state of knowing and not knowing fares, so does the hope, and so does the fear.

     All feelings have this quadruple interaction in motion, of pleasure and pain, knowing and not knowing.


Fear is pain from thinking that pain may come.

     Fear is about pleasure not to be had, or pain to be had. Pleasure is a situation the self wants to be in for the time of having it; which means that the self is in a situation of oneness with something not itself. The big fear of the self is that it not be at one with what is not itself.

     Pleasure is a situation we want to keep on having. As soon as we don't, it is no longer pleasure. Pleasure is, then, always attended with a desire for its persistence. A pleasure had is always in some way accompanied with the hope of its continuing, or the fear of its not continuing.

     Pain is a situation the self doesn't want to be in for the time of having it. In pain, the self is not in a situation of oneness with an object.

     Pain is always accompanied by the fear of its continuing and the hope of its discontinuing.

© 1945 by Eli Siegel

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