“Hope! Not optimism, Hope”: Insights and stories aimed at finding hope in difficult times

Hope! Not optimism, Hope”: Insights and stories aimed at finding hope in difficult times

An interactive series on hope, drawing on multiple genres and a wide-range of suggested readings.  Hope bursts through the confines of ordinary definition. This class will focus on personal experience and process, tapping into the insights and stories of both instructor and participants.  The suggested session sequence will be: Losing Hope, Encountering Hope, and Embracing Hope.  While crosscurrents of the Spring Equinox, Passover, and Easter will come into play, this class is not theologically geared. The eponymous course title was inspired by the loss of the instructor's dear friend and colleague, Rev. Dr. Hope Johnson, with matters of ‘loss’ and ‘hope’ seemingly especially relevant in the turmoil of these times.

Instructor: Jan Carlsson-Bull


Date: Thursdays, March 25 - April 8

Time: 7:00 pm - 8:30 pm via Zoom

Cost: $95

  • Suggested Reading List

    Core readings that can be digested across the span of the classes, with the exception of the Camus and  Chödrön works, which I ask participants to read before classes begin.  ** indicates that I will share the text as an attachment in my welcoming letter.  All other sources can be accessed via the links cited.


    **Jackson Brown, “For a Dancer” lyrics.

    *“Hope” in Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy, (a stellar overview of various ways of understanding hope), with an extensive bibliography.

     *Albert Camus, The Myth of Sisyphus and Other Essays (New York: Vintage, 1955). 

    *Pema Chödrön, When Things Fall Apart: Heart Advice for Difficult Times (Boston: Shambhala, 1997).

    *Joshua L. Freeman, “China Disappeared My Professor. It Can’t Silence His Poetry.”, The New York Times, Opinion, November 23, 2020, 

    *Barbara Kingsolver, “Small Wonders” in Small Wonder: Essays (NY: HarperCollins, 2002). ISBN 0-06-050407-2

    *Václav Havel, “On Hope” in Disturbing the Peace: A Conversation with Karel HvížÄala (NY: Knopf Doubleday, 1990), pp. 181-182. 

    *Krista Tippett, Orion Magazine, Spring 2020,

    **Howard Zinn, “The Optimism of Uncertainty”, in The Nation, November 6, 2004. (brilliant narrative on evidence-based optimism)


    Recommended readings:


    Sarah Ashby, in Readers Write on Highs and Lows, The Sun Magazine, November 2020.

    Sylvia Hernandez, “Hope and History: Looking forward,” in The Nation, November 30, 2020.

    Ronna Fay Jevne & James E. Miller, Finding Hope: Ways to See Life in a Brighter Light, Willowgreen Publishing, 1999.

    Derrick Jensen, “Beyond Hope” in Orion Magazine,

    Barbara Kingsolver, “Hope to Be Hopeful,” 2008 Commencement Address delivered at Duke University’s 2008 commencement ceremony May 11 at Wallace Wade Stadium,

    The Book of Lamentations, Old Testament


    John L’Heureux, “The Expert on God”, in A Celestial Omnibus: Short Fiction on Faith, Edited by J.P. Maney and Tom Hazuka, Beacon Press, Boston, 1997.


    Paul Rogat Loeb, The Impossible Will Take a Little While, Basic Books, 2004.


    Barack Obama, The Audacity of Hope: Thoughts on Reclaiming the American Dream, Crown Publishers, New York, 2006.


    John Schneider, “Validation: The Tool That Heals,” from Dying to Live or Living to Die: How Grief Differs from Depression, Seasons Press, Old Mission, MI,, 2004.


    “Poems of Hope and Resilience”, The Poetry Foundation,

    (included: poetry of Emily Dickinson, Lucille Clifton, Adam Zagajewski, Audre Lord, Wendell Berry, et. al.)


    Peter Sawtell, “The Source of Hope”, Orion Magazine,


    Rebecca Solnit, “Acts of Hope” Orion Magazine,