I remember when I was much younger and my grandmother was still alive, she would say that hope was the foundation of life itself. Years later, I still think about her words. At the time, I remember myself passionately in disagreement with my grandmother’s statement. You see, I felt that to invest in hope would mean that the life that I am living now is not sufficient. That my desires would always be reaching outside of the reality which is now my present life.
Now that I am older, I think I understand better what might my grandmother may have intended by her words. Most humans, no matter in what country we live or from what culture we spring, are concerned with the survival of our physical bodies as well as those of people and animals whom we love, and of the safety of our property. We all with varying traditions and rituals attempt to secure for ourselves good fortune. Good fortune could be simply summarized as circumstances matching up with a picture which we ourselves have created as “ideal”.
The truth is, this desire for good fortune, that thing we call hope, just might be another name for fear. As a single parent, I know something about this feeling of needing to take care of my son, my home, our dog…to keep us all fed, safe, clothed, take care of schooling, and meet all of our needs. I have all of these responsibilities, but no guarantees that I will always be able to provide. At any moment, malicious humans, storms, falling trees, the inevitable forces of entropy which cause everything to degrade, encurring unpredictable expenses…all of these things cause me anxiety. There are so many aspects of life over which I have no control. In order to manage my anxiety, I find myself resorting to hope or other rituals. I hope that the reclassification of positions in my county government job may encourage the board of directors to vote higher salaries, since the cost of living far outreaches beyond my ability to stretch my paycheck. (and I try really hard!!) I hope that I will find honest and trustworthy people to hire when I need help making repairs on my home or car. I speak to invisible guides and angels to give me support when I feel I can’t do everything myself.
Yes, the truth is that I cannot do everything myself. A concurrent truth is that I cannot control the outcomes of most events or relationships in my life. I hope that I will live long enough to raise my son and make sure he gets through college. I hope that I can provide as best I can for him and for our dog Ruby.
The Buddhist philosophy of receiving each moment and event in life as a gift, without judging it as either postive or negative really appeals to me. I think it is probably also consistent from a phrase I somehow gleaned along the way from the Christian New Testament, about living as the lilies of the field. Both of these viewpoints encourage either faith that our needs will somehow be met while letting go of all fear. Animals and plants live or die, but anxiety does not usually play a constant role in their lives as it does for us. Nor are they hopeful. They simply are. They have feelings, and sometimes they are afraid or sad.
As humans, we need some way to deal with our existential fears. Being fearful is one way. Being hopeful is another way. Finding some kind of supernatural faith or trust in the universe is another. Accepting reality is probably the most grown-up, responsible, and mature way of managing our dual reality of being physical and spiritual beings. As I think about this philosophy, I realize that it allows me to grow. To be creative. For example, while I hope that my home will be protected from the effects of storms, and general wear and tear, when the roof starts leaking at 5 am during a rainstorm, I find the wherewithal to solve the problem, and to find help. Is there some kind of meaning to this event? Probably not. It’s not a misfortune, even if it requires a $300 unplanned expense. This year, there have been many unexpected expenses for repairs to the car, the house.
Basically, I try to live thankful for what does go right, and when things do go “wrong”, I keep my chin up and know that somehow things will be worked out. In the long term, I can’t know if a rejection from one person means a positive outcome in another area. I am hopeful that I can grow up enough to enjoy each moment and what it brings…in challenges and pleasures!