Living Hope

December 10th, 2012

One of my favorite authors, Barbara Kingsolver, said

The very least you can do in your life is figure out what you hope for. And the most you can do is live inside that hope. Not admire it from a distance but live right in it, under its roof.

I love that. Know what you hope for and live inside that hope.

I hope to write something useful about hope here, the upside and downside of hope, and inspire you not only to build a house of hope (make it a mansion) but to move in and really live there.

Hope is like air. Without it, all the purpose is choked out of your life and you suffocate.

Hope is a soldier on active duty, carrying a picture of his precious baby. He looks at it, not only to remind himself what he has to look forward to but also why he’s serving in the first place. His baby is his love, his purpose and his reason for risking everything.

Hope is a screen saver of your dream location, a constant reminder of your plans to move towards the life of your dreams.

Hope is a savings account, steadily growing to support a dream of a lifetime.

Hope is an inspirational quote hung on your wall, reminding you who you intend to be in your life.

There are so many examples. Hope is an idea, a plan, an intention, we hold in our minds as to how we want our lives to be.

Hope is powerful. But it can also be dangerous. There is a fine line between hope and fantasy, and an even finer line between hope and expectation. Maybe harshest of all, hope cuts deep when things don’t go the way you intend.

Buddhist teacher Pema Chodron said, “Abandon hope!”

She said that hope comes from the same place as fear.

Hope and fear come from feeling that we lack something; they come from a sense of poverty. We can’t simply relax with ourselves. We hold on to hope, and hope robs us of the present moment. We feel that someone else knows what is going on, but that there is something missing in us, and therefore something is lacking in our world.

It’s a great point. If hope keeps taking us back to the future, we never stop to realize how full our life is right now. There’s always somewhere else to be.

So where does this leave hope? Both things seem to be true. Imagining the future IS  powerful. AND the present has ALL you need. It’s the now and not yet of life. Maybe it’s just a matter of holding the tension, letting it be, working it out case by case.

Finding the balance has a lot to do with attachment and action.

  1. Hope and Attachment

You can hold a hope without being attached to an outcome. You can hold the intention to make that move, buy that house, get that job, meet that partner, but hold it loosely so that you don’t get stuck on a single path.

This is the line between hope and expectation. Expectation has a specific outcome in mind. There’s no hope involved. In your mind it WILL happen. Hope has more humility than that. It works against the odds at intentions that are from certain, and is prepared to change course at any point to match reality. Expectation deals in certainty. Hope dwells in uncertainty. Expectation is unbending. Hope is flexible.

  1. Hope and Action

I came across a powerful example of hope recently. It’s the recycled orchestra. A poverty hit community in Paraguay is situated on a landfill. They eke out an existence by recycling trash that’s been dumped on them. A few music teachers transform the whole situation by turning trash into instruments; cellos, guitars, trumpets, enough for all the kids who wanted to join the orchestra. The music they play is SO beautiful. You can listen to some of it here. Its one of the most powerful things I’ve heard in a long time. Their story will soon be told in the movie “Landfill Harmonic”.

Talk about living IN your hope. These people have struggles like most of us never face. Their hope surely has a future element (the easing of suffering and poverty) but its lived in the present. The fact that they can find abundance even in trash is a mark of true hope.

Most of us don’t live on landfills. But we have our struggles, and we hope for the end of our struggles. True hope is not passive, just waiting for a better time. It’s active, taking steps to find the potential in every moment to BE the change you are looking for.

Author and political activist, Grace Paley said, “The only recognizable feature of hope is action.”

Hope is active and flexible. It turns every now into an opportunity while finding motivation in a not yet that excites you and fills your present with passion and purpose.

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  1. Beth says:

    Great piece! I always love your perspective and writing Ian.

    Recently a lot of proverbial doors closed in my life, and I feel that I am sitting here waiting for the next steps in my life to reveal themselves. I haven’t been feeling safe to have hopes and dreams because everything I have hoped for keepsfalling apart it seems. Perhaps I was just getting hope and expectation confused…there’s such a fine line between the two.

    Another phrase you used that I keep seeing lately is “letting it be.” I guess my phase of “letting go” is over and now I have to learn how to letting things be. I guess I’m growing!

    Anyhow, thanks much for sharing your wisdom and gifts with us all. I hope you and your family have a blessed holiday season.

  2. ian says:

    thanks Beth- be well and good thoughts with your waiting. Sometimes we need closed doors to force us to try new ones.

  3. Ian:
    A keen breakdown of the meaning of hope and how it relates to worry and expectations.
    I have always defined hope as a person on the sidelines looking at the plays going on in his field of life, and wanting things to happen but not joining the game.
    I can see there’s more to it than that now. 
    Cheers, thanks,

  4. Julia Robb says:

    This is an excellent piece because it tells the truth; life is a balance, attitudes are a balance, truth is a balance. Good job. 

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