The hopelessness of hope

Hope… like Dolly Parton, Ryan Reynolds, Mastercard… pretty much welcome everywhere.

And especially in times of unrest, fear and suffering, it seems to be all we can cling to. However bad things are, as long as we have a glimmer of hope we will be OK. Hope springs eternal after all. Things will get better.

But what if it is hope that is actually the problem? What if it is the clinging to an idea that one day things will be how we think they should be is actually what is maintaining the very thing we are resisting?

It’s hard to consider (especially for us pathologically optimistic Sagittarians) but the thought that ultimately things will be how we want them to be is just not true. The only guaranteed future for the human body is of course death (and I don’t think that’s what all this hope is directed at).

Hope is essentially, to use Byron Katie’s phrase ‘an argument with reality. And when we argue with reality we lose. But only 100% of the time’. Hope is saying, ‘This reality is not ok right now. I want this other reality. Another reality in which I have the right circumstances and the right experience.

We can keep doing that all our lives, right through until the very end. And in the process a life time is passed up in the hope of the next thing that will be more favourable. One day things will be better.

It is true they can be better, infinitely better, but never by resisting what is, by meeting it. By being so present, open and intimate with it that the mental representation of it (which is the only thing being resisted) disappears and is replaced by actual reality.

Actual reality is this moment right now. The mind has its interpretation and meaning which has nothing to do with what is and everything to do with a mental projection based on past experience and conditioning.

Hope says that this projected reality is true and one day it will change. It can’t change though because the resistance to it, the inability to be present to it is keeping it in place.

This is why ‘hope against hope’ ‘live in hope’ ‘hope for the best’ etc etc etc could all be replaced with ‘this too shall pass’.

‘This too shall pass’ is (unlike some future wished for scenario) actually true. EVERYTHING about this moment will pass. It is the blink of an eye transient experience made up of infinite perceptions that will never be repeated in exactly the same way.

Whether the moment is our worst nightmare or the stuff of our wildest dreams, it will pass. And this is all that life is. There is only this moment which is already, even as it is being experienced, turning itself into something else, slipping away and metamorphosing into something absolutely new and fresh which is itself now already changing.

It is always passing. Nothing can be repeated or replicated or fixed in place. This unique form of us, with its unique ever-changing way of sensing, seeing and hearing engages with an ever-changing world of form. Each moment an exquisite poetry of sliding, slipping creation.

And if we miss it (by sitting out on the side-lines of life hoping for something that is not this), the jewels that were there in that moment (for sure harder to find in the horror, but all the more glowingly inestimable) will never be experienced. Gone for ever. They never really existed because no one was available to gather them in.

This too shall pass. The transience is the heart-break of our lives and the saviour. Exquisite, evanescent, breath-stopping miraculous, this ever changing landscape, which, if we look away for more than a fraction of a second, is gone.

It will pass.

The truth of this draws the mind into reality. And the truth sets us free. Free to be with what is. Free to experience every element, no matter how vulnerable we are. Free to live fully this life, in this form. This is all there is. It is beyond precious and it is already passing.


No thanks.








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1 Comment

  1. Tim

    Thanks Clare…needed that!