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To Prove Hope When We Cannot Believe



This guest article was written by author Raina Nightingale.

I don't like books that leave me feeling depressed or despairing when I'm done. I don't like to read them. And I don't want to write them.


I believe we all crave something. Call it hope, or the will to live, or something to live for, or whatever you like. Maybe it's called value, worth. All these words have their flaws, their blindspots, a place where they show what I mean, and a place where they can be the opposite of what I mean, or at least something irrelevant.


And that's part of why we need stories. Stories can be read in a million ways, yes, but they don't make themselves out to be what non-fiction can. They make themselves out to be one person's vision in a personal way. They're about a concrete set of people – characters – in a concrete set of circumstances (plot and setting). So they can hint in a way other things can't. Stories can be true or false in their way, but it's a different way. They ask you what to think, instead of only telling you what someone thinks you should think.


That's all my opinion of course.


But stories show us bits and pieces of what this means. Stories can give us a concrete or symbolic vision of what it means to … live. Of what that thing that is not despair is. In stories, we can wrestle with despair, feel and ask questions that aren't of the mind or thoughts, but questions of the heart or feelings. And in the end, that's what it comes down to. Maybe feelings is the wrong word. Attitude. Something that can live past feelings and through them.


The conviction that whatever it is you value, whatever it is that sings to your heart, whether you call that good, or love, or beauty, or another word, is immortal. That it can, and must, survive and, more than that, thrive. That it's fundamental and ultimate, never naïve or silly or defeated. Or if it is naïve, then naïvety is a good thing, one that speaks to something basic in reality.


For me, I read and write because I need that conviction, that hope. I need to test it, and see it proven. To know that no matter what happens to me, or the world around me, or those I love in this life, that is real. Even when or if I can't trust it. Even if I break. Even if I lose hope.


You can come to this conviction in a lot of different ways, but I believe it needs to be fundamental. Rooted in something deeper and truer than the future, whether you call that thing Eternity or whether you call it the Present doesn't really matter very much. But, when the world challenges you, and makes it seem as if every effort you make to love, to hold true to the vision you see, is useless, taunts you with the inescapable claim that you can never make a difference, never make the world a better place, we need that conviction.


To me, what makes a book noblebright is the conviction, or the search for the conviction, that fundamental reality is good and redemptive, no matter how dark the horrors you fear or the circumstances that beset you. It doesn't have to always be in the beliefs of the characters, since for this conviction to be real, to matter, it has to hold true even when we can't, or fail to, trust it. But that, to me, is the essence of noblebright: that somewhere, somehow, the most fundamental, basic, primal thing is goodness or love, and it can redeem all our sorrows, even the most irredeemable, for villain and victim alike. Even when we can't, for the life of us, see how any redemption is possible. Noblebright can run the whole range, of light and hopeful, with an idyllic, triumphal ending, with what seems inevitable doom averted, to the search for this conviction in the darkest of horrors, where this conviction itself is the victory. And both, in my opinion, are equally necessary, though at one time or place a person might need more of one or more of the other.


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This guest article was written by author Raina Nightingale.

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