“I have no hope; I have no fear. I am free.” (Nikos Kazantzakis)
“Frankly, I don’t have much hope. But I think that’s a good thing. Hope is what keeps us chained to the system, the conglomerate of people and ideas and ideals that is causing the destruction of the Earth.” (Derrick Johnson, Orion Magazine, May/June 2006)
I throw the word hope around quite easily and very often. Most preachers do:
“My hope is built on nothing less
Than Jesus’ blood and righteousness.” (Old hymn)
“To them God has chosen to make known among the Gentiles the glorious riches of this mystery, which is Christ in you, the hope of glory.” (Colossians 1:27)
I have used the word and concept of hope most often as an antidote for some set of uncomfortable, unsettling, even fearful circumstances which exist in the present moment. Implicit in hope (as I have most often used it) is the looked-forward-to future absence of those difficult feelings being experienced right now.
I am wondering, though, if I have not merely been grabbing at the whole concept of hope in the same way I used to grab at a glassful of Jim Beam? Is it simply one more way to get outside of the present moment, and to justify inaction? Does pie-in-the-sky hope cause me and others to sit around and wait for future bliss while the muck and mire of the moment is rising over our shoes, our ankles, our knees ?!
Hope is an attempt to counterbalance Fear. We can control Fear by constructing an imagined scenario of No Fear. Or so it seems. To Not Be Afraid is a primary motivator used by advertisers, preachers, and politicians. They know their audience is afraid of not being pretty enough, of not going to heaven, or of being blown to bits in another 9/11 scenario. So they offer Hope: a new shade of Max Factor lipstick, a walk down the aisle for the absolution of sins, or a “Happy Days are Here Again” ballot choice.
And we, wanting desperately to escape the dread which weighs heavily on our shoulders, believe them. Again. And again. And again, again. We have believed them for so long, that it feels natural- human, we think- to hope for a better tomorrow. We shovel out money- usually, borrowed money- in the hope that a new car, a new entertainment center, or a shiny new piece of bling-bling on our arm will finally, despite the $125,738 unsuccessfully spent on similar doo-dads in the past, make us happy.
We pray for miracles- supernatural interventions by God, Allah, or the personal guardian angels that over 50% of Americans believe are standing nearby in anxious desire to serve them- to alleviate the anxieties of today. It’s sooo much easier to tell God what to do, than it is to ask “What can I do?” And, where two or more are gathered, it sounds a lot holier , too.
And, politicians? 9/11 and stories about inadequate health care are mantras for them. They know we fear violence and sickness because we are afraid, above all, of Death (another soon-topic in this series), and so they work hard at keeping those fears in the forefronts of our present thinking, so that we may hope for an end to them by properly voting.
Hope, too often, nullifies, debases, and puts off Action or Acceptance. We are blinded to our own abilities to actively affect the difficult circumstances we can do something about, and to Accept those circumstances over which we have no control. To help a 16 year accept themselves as the unique person he or she already is, it seems to me, a far greater act than helping him buy steroids, or signing the permission papers for her to get a boob job. To visit a lonely invalid or prisoner is a much more satisfying way to follow Jesus (or Allah, or one of those angels) than waiting in miserable self-absorption for glory, yes? And certainly, get out and vote, but stop hoping that Big Brother (or Sister) will make our days happy ones. Only we can do that. And if we can’t do it for ourselves, helping others do it for themselves is an even more fulfilling, satisfying, and- dare I say?- happy substitute.
I cannot make myself say that Hope is bad thing. It’s nice to believe the sun will shine tomorrow. But, more often than not, we must simply open our eyes and see that the Light is, and has been, there anyway! If we look for it, instead of hoping for it, we can experience Light flowing in on us from all kinds of cracks in formerly dark corners. And then we might even observe that while we had been waiting for pie in the sky, there was a big slice of chocolate cake, with ice cream melting beside it, in front of us, waiting to be eaten.