What do you hope for? It’s a question I’ve been asked many times in the past, and will undoubtedly be asked again. It’s been asked most by Christians in my life, but hope is definitely not the exclusive territory of Christianity. Hope has been even more on my mind of late–given how stressful and despair-invoking the summer has been, I’ve been thinking hard about it. I thought I’d share two things: first, a background on my experience with hope, and second, my answer to the question “What do you hope for?”.
Honor, Hope, and Love–if anything sums up the 3 things that inform everything else in my life, it’s these 3. Honor, of course, comes naturally to me–from my earliest memory I’ve always wanted to do the right thing. Now, that does not mean that I always did the right thing–but that was due to a lack of knowledge of what WAS right, not a deliberate choice to do the wrong thing. Hope and love conversely, were things I had bits and pieces of, but really had to wrestle with to understand more fully.
Wrestling love was a very long journey and really came to a head in my teens years when I struggled with unrequited romance. Finding a balance with unrequited romance was what really helped me understand love in all its forms. Understanding love then helped me better understand what true honor was–the two inform and influence each other, though love is by far the stronger thing in the universe; which, is to be expected as it’s the STRONGEST thing in the universe.
Hope has also been a long journey, but it’s also been the harder one in ways because it’s a lot more shrouded and less talked about than love. I think my first real recognition that hope was worth wrestling with, and of the power of it, was when watching the final episodes of the first season of Digimon: Digital Adventures. I would have been 8 or 9 at the time. It takes until the final episodes for the Crest of Hope to activate and causes the Digivolution of a very powerful Digimon. What was so crucial about this was that the Crest of Hope only activated when all seemed lost and that, more than anything, got me thinking. After that I began to see hope everywhere: in the Star Wars saga, in the Star Trek series–in most of my favorite sci-fi/fantasy series in fact. I also saw it in the Christian story of Jesus crucifixion and resurrection (as an aside, I always sensed a power in the story of Jesus crucifixion and resurrection–it was the one story that always spoke to me, so I suppose I shouldn’t have been surprised as I was when I finally became Christian). Seeing hope in all those places started me wrestling with it. One of the more recent places that I saw hope, that was kind of the missing piece of the puzzle, was in X-Men: Days of Future Past. In a pivotal scene, old Charles Xavier and young Charles Xavier talk to each other via some telepathic wizardry. The young Charles complains of pain, and thinks the pain comes from the mind he senses; the older Charles replies that it is young Charles’s own pain getting in the way, not the pain of others. The young Charles asks quite understandably how to deal with that pain–and the old Charles responds that hope is the answer, and tells young Charles they need him to hope again.
The reason this was the pivotal piece was because I have a trait which has always puzzled me: no matter how much pain I’m in from my various disabilities, circumstances, and mental health crises there remains a small, quiet core of strength untouched by all my inner darkness. I have spent a great deal of my life learning how to tap into that small quiet core for strength and guidance (yes, that’s the reason I’ve walked the mystic path–from psychological meditative exercises, to Tai Chi, to Wicca, to Christian mysticism, my faith journey has been all about the mystic traditions). So what’s behind this small, quiet core? Well, yes, the Holy Spirit is obviously behind it, but the Holy Spirit is behind a lot of things, so what else is behind it?
Hope. Hope is the key to my resilience (obviously magnified and helped by the Holy Spirit, but the Holy Spirit does need something to work with, after all). And yes, I know it’s a somewhat bold claim to say I’m resilient, but I happen to have it on the good authority of a counselor who knew me very well that I am indeed resilient, so I feel comfortable trusting his judgment on the matter.
So that leads to the second part of all this: if hope is the key to my resilience, what do I hope for? My answer in the past hasn’t been very eloquent: When I get asked the question, usually so many possible answers come to my mind that I can’t think of any just one to answer. But I did some more thinking on it recently and came up with what I think sums all of the possible answers up and links them together.
I hope, both the world and my life, will get better.
Yes, I know that requires some explanation. Here’s my thought process: I realized I had hopes for my life and for the world. For my life things like getting a job, finding a faith community, entering a romantic relationship–these are things I hope for there. For the world the hopes are for symbiotic relationships with all life forms, a society based on egalitarian values, a celebration of diversity, and a ceasing of all war. If you get right down to it though, all of those are just hoping that the world and my life will get better.
Now, I was tempted to add “each day” after get better, but that didn’t feel right. And I soon figured out why: I understand that it’s not going to be a linear progression from terrible to good. Rather, both my world and the life have a a lot of steps backward before huge leaps forward. I am convinced however that both the world and my life are on an arc towards betterness–though I don’t expect either will ever be perfect.
And yes, I say convinced because that’s what I see when I look at a history. That said, there’s a rather large element of hope in that as well–evil does exist, and it always threatens to turn things around. I tend to believe that good will triumph in the end, in both my life and world, but I don’t KNOW that for sure. So I think I can be convinced that both the world and my life are on an arc towards betterness, while hoping that they actually make it.
That hope, I should also point out, is a choice. As the Star Wars: New Jedi Order: Traitor novel by Matthew Stover points out, when faced with all the pain in the universe (which is also essentially facing oneself) you can respond with anger, hate, fear, despair at the unfairness of it all–or you can respond with love. And I firmly believe that finding something to hope for is a great help to being able to respond with love to all that pain. Note that I do not say necessary: if there is one thing I’ve learned, no one can predict love all that well, so I have made it a conscious choice to not set conditions on love, because I am bound to be wrong. I do think, however, that hope will act as a force multiplier to love.
So I encourage you all to find something to hope for. To choose hope. All it takes is looking at the world and saying to yourself: “This is the way things are–but this is NOT how it always has to be”. Tell yourself that every day, and eventually you will find something to hope for