On being hope less

I wrote this a month ago and have been sitting on it, hesitant to post it in the days leading up to Christmas because I didn’t think that a post on hopelessness would be appropriate. But now that Christmas is over…

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I am taking another WordPress writing 101 class and today’s assignment is to write a post inspired by a single word. One of the words on the list was “hope.” It’s really weird that this is a suggestion because when I asked Twitter last month what I should write about one of my Twitter friends suggested “hope.” So I’ve had this empty draft sitting on my dashboard for a month entitled “On Hope.” I suppose I’ve been writing it in my head.

I feel very ambivalent about hope. Some of the thoughts I have are probably not going to be very popular.

After I wrote that paragraph I happened to be reading through a kid’s books for work. In the book one of the characters reads from a book and this is what it says:

Hope

‘Tis hope that makes the midnight seem less black,

‘Tis hope that in our hardest times inspires.

If the cold of winter stops you in your tracks,

Let hope be both your compass and your fire.

 

This is little poem sums up what society thinks about hope, doesn’t it? That it is our compass in our darkest hour. And I like that thought. I like the thought that tomorrow will be a better day, and that hoping for the future will help me make it out of a dark time. And I suppose there is some truth to that, in the sense that impermanence exists and that everything we experience is temporary.

However, what if what I am hoping for can never happen? When my stepfather was dying of cancer I hoped that he would get better and he didn’t get better. He died of cancer. And when he died of cancer it hurt like hell (still does). So where does hope help me in that case? How does hope help when what I am hoping for is impossible?

It kind of seems to me that hope is just another word for grasping for things that we want. And grasping leads to suffering. And suffering sucks.

This blog post here explains what I am thinking on this topic.

I would like to propose that giving up hope will make you feel much better. Hope focuses on the future, and the future doesn’t exist. So, in essence, hope is delusion.  Deal with what is right in front of you in each moment, because that is all you have.

I say all of this but the idea of hope is so deeply ingrained in the core of my being and it is hard to break the habit. If I was in a situation that was truly terrible I might feel differently. Maybe? But then I have been in a terrible situation and when I was in that situation I was forced to deal with what was happening right in front of me. It was scary and horrible but I faced it and felt all of the feelings associated with it and it seems like that was the right way to deal with it.

Though I imagine that there are really terrible situations where, perhaps, hope can help.

In the end, though, my hope is to someday be able to live a hope-free life.

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I still don’t know what to think about hope, re-reading this a month later. I think I am still addicted to the lovely feelings that hope generates. Maybe addicted is not the right word. Maybe it’s human nature to hope. But on the other hand, I understand the importance of focusing on the present moment because that is all I have. Everything else is delusion. 

This is just another one of those Buddhist teachings that I am grappling with at the moment. Thank you for listening, dear readers. 🙂

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6 thoughts on “On being hope less

    1. Not silly at all! I like the metaphor of a lens and I think that is a very apt description of hope! And maybe it isn’t bad or good, it’s just a lens. And sometimes a lens can be helpful!

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  1. I think perhaps hope gets confused with goals. I hope I continue to rise in my career, for example. But isn’t that just a way to say that my goal is to rise in my career?

    I wonder if hope should be more generalized, just being about general good outcomes.

    I’m thinking of a fellow I know who, believe it or not, has a minor felony on his record AND a couple thousand in unpaid traffic tickets that have suspended his license. Not only is it nearly impossible for him to find a decent job, if he had one, he couldn’t legally drive to it.

    There’s a way for him to get his felony knocked down to a misdemeanor; it involves paying his probation fees (yes, you have to pay to be on probation, and you can’t go off until the fees are paid), and an administrative hearing before a judge. And with money, he can pay off his fines and get his license back.

    This makes a straight vertical climb become merely uphill. And someone is working with him, helping him pay those fines and fees. It’s generated hope in him. In his current situation, he has very few options: limits on the kinds of jobs he can get, limits on where he can live (many landlords won’t rent to felons). He feels hopeless in that. But with the help he’s getting, he feels some hope, because he sees possibilities. That’s all, just possibilities. But that alone is transforming him.

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    1. Great insights, as always! Yes, this is the kind of situation that makes me stumble on the hope less idea. I think you are right, maybe we confuse the word with goals. But I agree, I think hope can be transformative. When you look at things through the lens of hope (love that metaphor) the trajectory changes (maybe?) and leads to a more positive outcome perhaps…

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      1. Could trajectory be a key part of the goalless life? Clearly you don’t want goallesness to lead you to Bad Things(tm) in life. So you choose the things to have/do in your life, and read the trajectory, and as long as it’s positive it’s your clue you’re doing ok. But if your trajectory is negative, choose different things to restore positive trajectory. This helps limit attachment to the things you choose, too.

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