Beyond Hope

A friend of mine posted something about hope. Reading it seemed rather depressing to me: Giving up hope? Won’t that leave us in an existential vacuum? Still, i’ve noticed myself mulling over the ideas ever since i read the post, including the Derrick Jensen article it refers to.

I’ve also been mulling over what keeps us stuck. It seems that many of us bring up the same issue(s) over and over again and there isn’t a shift, a resolution, at least one that lasts longer than for an hour after the empathy session. I long to live in community and yet i live by myself. I am sure my friends and empathy buddies have lost count of the many times i complained about loneliness. Why am i stuck?

I am beginning to think that the two are related. Hope takes us out of the present moment into a rosier future. Derrick Jensen defines it as “a longing for a future condition over which you have no agency” (@48:36). As long as we hope, we don’t have to act because we will just somehow end up in this rosier future. Like magic. Or because we hope that we somehow attract what we wish for. It’s a rather vague enterprise. It’s hopeful.

More than two decades ago, i had a child. And i was in an abusive marriage. I was hoping that the child might change things. Or maybe love would change things. Or somehow things would just change, i hoped. Only when i accepted the painful reality that i was in a marriage that was very unhealthy, i put things in motion to leave. I had given up hope that things would change without having to take some risks, without facing the unknown.

When i look at my life now, the places i am stuck, i notice similar tendencies toward hope, though, fortunately, my life is much healthier and happier these days. Somehow i hope that the local friendships i have will deepen (even though they haven’t over the years they existed). Somehow i hope that i figure out something that doesn’t require a compromise somewhere for a wise livelihood (even though my attempts so far haven’t been successful – there’s always a compromise). Somehow i hope that i will find my path lit up like the emergency exit in a plane (even though that kind of clarity does not exist in life – i can only experience my path as i am on it, including the not-knowing of where it will take me). I am beginning to think that accepting reality, the present, will help me get unstuck. I sense some freedom there – and some scary decisions. Giving up hope frees me from the illusion that life will somehow work itself out to my benefit. Trust, instead, helps me lean into that somehow everything will be okay, yes, even when i die, which seems like the ultimate not-okayness. I can hope that i live forever. Or i can trust that dying won’t be the end of the world, that i’ll make at least good worm food. And i can trust that this is just part of the way life flows. Somehow this gives me comfort: It’s no longer about me.

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