Friends, I want to talk to you today about hope.
There’s a lot going on in the world right now. And if the conversations I’ve had with friends over the past several weeks are any indication of general trends, many of us are struggling personally right now, as well. We’re moving through times that are asking us to look directly at our darkness. Asking us how committed we really are to what we say we want.
In seasons of darkness and transition, we need more than tired platitudes to get us through: we need fierce faith and determination. We need capital-letter Hope.
I’ve heard it called Active Hope (by Joanna Macy & Chris Johnstone), Disciplined Hope (by Meggan Watterson), and Hope In the Dark (by Rebecca Solnit) – this kind of hope requires capital letters, because it’s that important. That necessary to our individual and collective survival. Here’s one way of looking at it:
The word hope has two different meanings. The first involves hopefulness, where our preferred outcome seems reasonably likely to happen. If we require this kind of hope before we commit ourselves to an action, our response gets blocked in areas where we don’t rate our chances to high… The second meaning is about desire… It is this kind of hope that starts our journey – knowing what we hope for and what we’d like, or love, to take place. It is what we do with this hope that makes the difference. Passive hope is about waiting for external agencies to bring about what we desire. Active Hope is about becoming active participants in bringing about what we hope for.
…Since Active Hope doesn’t require our optimism, we can apply it even in areas where we feel hopeless. The guiding impetus is intention; we choose what we aim to bring about, act for, or express. Rather than weighing our chances and proceeding only when we feel hopeful, we focus on our intention and let it be our guide.
-Joanna Macy & Chris Johnstone, Active Hope
Capital-letter Hope is giving what you can to Hurricane Harvey survivors, even if you’re living paycheck to paycheck, because you believe that giving something is better than nothing. Because you believe that something matters.
It’s not giving up on fighting the eating disorder or addiction you’ve been struggling with for years, even if all evidence from the past suggests that you’ll relapse again. Because you believe that on the other side of this, there’s a life worth living.
It’s believing that bringing your own coffee thermos, recycling your LaCroix seltzer cans, going vegetarian, and carpooling on Wednesdays all make a difference that matters in fighting climate change, even if that difference seems infinitesimally, almost laughably small. Because you know your children need a good planet to live on.
It’s trying IVF for the 3rd time after months and months of failures, even if the statistics are stacked against you, because statistics aren’t everything, and because you know you’re meant to be a mom.
It’s having a conversation about racism with a colleague even when you know you might fumble your words, even when you know you might say the wrong thing, because something in you knows you need to keep trying, and that all of this takes practice.
Capital-letter Hope requires action in the face of discouragement, disappointment, rejection, and seemingly-impossible odds. If we can learn to not give up on ourselves, then we might have a shot at not giving up on our communities, and not giving up on the world.
Our own messy lives are the perfect training grounds for the fierce, disciplined hope that the future requires of us. In the words of Rebecca Solnit, in Hope in the Dark:
Hope is not a lottery ticket you can sit on the sofa and clutch, feeling lucky. It is an axe you break down doors with in an emergency. Hope should shove you out the door, because it will take everything you have to steer the future away from endless war, from the annihilation of the earth’s treasures and the grinding down of the poor and marginal… To hope is to give yourself to the future – and that commitment to the future is what makes the present inhabitable.-Rebecca Solnit, Hope in the Dark
I believe, wholeheartedly, that you’ve got the everything it takes to practice capital-letter Hope wherever it is needed in your life.