Earlier this week Susan asked what gives us hope. My quick response included great quotes and attempts at dazzling philosophical insights. Afterward, I felt I should have paused and considered the question. The Buddhists say that all beings are our teachers if we will but listen. In a way, Susan was my teacher for a day. I sat in the sunshine eating a pimiento cheese sandwich and tried to meditate on Susan's question. I remembered this from one or another wisdom tradition: "Those who know don't speak, and those who speak don't know." And this phrase kept coming to mind: The luxury of hope. Read on.
Who does not have hope? For starters, a mother watching her infant child die in her arms of malnutrition. A soldier lying in the dirt, watching his lifeblood spill out from his eviscerated midriff. A dissident prisoner of a repressive government, locked away in a gulag.
I, on the other hand, do have the luxury of hope. My life isn't an endless struggle for subsistence. I'm not working multiple jobs at minimum wage to pay rent and buy groceries. I don't have to sell myself on the streets in India or Bangladesh for food and a place to sleep. So do I have the right to let go of hope when it's within my grasp; when it's a luxury that life and luck has afforded me? Am I my brother's or sister's keeper of hope? Do I not owe those without hope that much?
I do. I owe it to them to shovel coal into the furnace of hope and keep it burning. I owe it to them not to judge if they let go of hope and give way. I owe it not to brag or be smug in my hope'"it's a luxury, not a right. This is neither an ANSWER nor a sermon. It's just the thought that keeps cycling in my mind when I ponder what it is that gives us hope. To whom much is given, much will be expected, whether by gods or by each other. It's the rule of this particular jungle.
Descartes was wrong when he boasted, "Cogito, ergo sum." He should have said, "I shit, therefore I am." (Sorry I can't translate that into Latin). I'm a little biological wonder. I eat, poop, have sex, and sit with my wrinkled face to the sun with my love at my side; therefore, I am. I have the luxury of hope and the blessedness of being. That's as close as I can get to god; as close as I'll ever get to heaven.
Is there purpose? Is there meaning? Is there good that can come out of suffering? How the h*ll should I know? I only know that there is hope. And today, that's enough. Tomorrow my world could fall apart. Someone I love may fall victim to disease, violence or madness. My possessions could be lost in a heartbeat. And it may be more than I can handle. I may want to cut my wrists or suck carbon monoxide to put an end to my suffering and grief. I don't know.
I won't judge those who lose hope and cash it in. I'm not in their skin. What I will do is continue to embrace the luxury of hope and marvel at its delicacy. I will do my part to keep hope safe for those whose hearts are broken and whose suffering I dare not imagine.
First of all I should make an effort
to meditate on the equality
between myself and others:
I should protect all beings as I do myself
because we are all equal in wanting
pleasure and not wanting pain'
When both myself and others
are similar in that we wish to be happy
what is so special about me?
Why do I strive for my happiness alone?