Wide Spot: Hope

Most people I know are loathe to speak of hope these days. They see the impacts of climate change and social inequities; they feel the tremendous systemic strains. They recognize that the world is in an unsustainable mess. The only hope these dear friends may allow themselves is the hope that they die before the reckoning comes to their own doorstep.

And then there are people who bask in hope, and I don’t mean this as a compliment. They have quit taking care of anyone but themselves, convinced that some vast shift is going to happen without any work on their part—whether via the rapture, the revolution, or an effortless turning. So they’re just fine, thank you, and I should be too. 

This thinking only works if you believe that our choices are meaningless.

Let me tell you about the hope which I carry. It is not contingent on specific future outcomes. It does not depend on whether the change that I long for occurs within my lifetime. It is not subject to my limited ideas of what would be best. 

The hope that I know comes from inside. It is a conviction, a “declaration about the very shape of reality” as Richard Rohr puts it. This hope recognizes, at the heart of all things, a deep-down belovedness and connection. This hope knows that the connectedness is always there, if I just pay attention. It is because of that deep-down belovedness and connection that we manage to put one foot in front of the other. Not because we know what the future holds, but because we trust that each of us plays a part in the solution, although we may not be able to see or feel or imagine that solution.

This hope takes seriously the idea that a vulnerable human being of dubious worth can make a difference—you, me, all of us. In my tradition, this idea is expressed through a religious celebration featuring an indigenous infant born to impoverished parents who have been displaced from their own land by an occupying government. The birth is a powerful event, not in spite of its inherent vulnerability, but because that very vulnerability has the capacity to concentrate our love. To draw us down into connection; to strengthen our mutual belovedness; to draw us outward in courage, and steadfastness, and forgiveness. 

Like everyone else, my life is rocky these days: more than one person I love is in a very vulnerable state, and the outcomes are uncertain. As a regular human being, you’d better believe that I am hoping that my beloved ones come through all of this with flying colours. You’d better believe I am praying for brilliant outcomes.

But more than my fervent hope for good outcomes, I want to make a “declaration about the very shape of reality.” What I am really praying for is the ability to remember, and live from, that reality: the deep-down belovedness and connection that can never be broken nor altered by outcomes. 

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