Posted by: Robin | June 11, 2008

The Great Divide, Part 2

Hope is a future word. It would seem to be at odds with carpe diem. Living fully focused on the present moment would seem to allow little space for hope to grow. The thing is that for most of us, most of the time, tomorrow will come. It will bring no dramatic change, but it can be the next step in what we strive toward. Our lives as human beings have several great divides that we must negotiate every breathing moment, most of the time on auto-pilot. We make major philosophical decisions daily and don’t know it. Where in time we invest our lives is one of them: past, present or future. For most of us it is the latter two that pose the greatest tension.

Most of my life I have been future-oriented, often missing the gift of the present. According to the Keirsey Temperament test it is wired into who I am, but living predominately invested in what may happen comes at a cost. Rereading C. S. Lewis’ Screwtape Letters and Letters to an American Lady  in the last few months began the quest I have mentioned in recent blogs: Finding the present duty in the present day. So then why does it seem like everything I’m reading or viewing lately is colluding to give me a message that at first glance is a contradiction? CHOOSE HOPE.

Emily Delahunty in “My House in Umbria”: “All we can do is hope . . . hope is the one thing that is left to us. We must look to the future and hope.”

Though I can’t remember the exact words, “Things We Lost in the Fire” had a scene where one character urges another to hope, and the sentiment is the implicit “Accept the good” message.

Bobby Pendragon in  D. J. MacHale’s The Pilgrims of Rayne: “‘This battle isn’t our entire future . . . This isn’t the end. It’s only a moment in time. No matter what happens, there will always be a future. It’s up to us to make it a better one. I believe we can do that. Never, ever give up hope, because that’s exactly what they want. No matter how this battle turns out, if we continue to believe there is a hope for a better future, we will have won.” (492)

Even the season two opener of “Army Wives” I have on for for background noise as I write had a character urging her radio listeners to choose life and hope after an irate soldier tries to blow up himself and everyone in the army base’s popular hangout. She says, “Regeneration. Life renewed. What is it the poets and philosophers try to pound in our heads? Winter becomes spring. Night becomes day. A wave crashes on the beach and disappears and another follows and another and another. We humans want to stick around. The ride must be the price of admission. It’s not in us not to hope, even when any reason to hope has dwindled to almost nothing.”

All of the above quotes are uttered in the context of shattering circumstances, and hope seems to be the belief that helps us face the worst and restore meaning after the worst has happened and we’ve survived. Far more often we invoke hope in reference to our plans and dreams either in Webster’s first definition, “the feelng that what is desired is also possible, or that events will turn out for the best . . .” or the sixth, “to believe, desire, or trust . . .” There is a world of difference between the first and last. It is the difference between wishful optimism requiring little of us and faith that enables and requires us to move forward, even when we cannot see the path. It is not necessarily a hope in a whom, but it is rooted in a core belief sprung from our values. “Now faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see” (Hebrews 11:1).

It seems to me that hope is a quality of living. It is a bridge and a promise (a promise either that we make to ourselves or God makes to us) that whatever our future brings it is worthy of being lived, worthy of our best, now and always. It is a present duty that most of our culture’s interpretations of carpe diem deny. More often than not carpe diem comes to us as a pessimistic conviction that tomorrow can offer us nothing but more of the same. It is a refusal to persevere for it’s own sake when it will do us no good.

So where am I going with this? I’m really not sure. I subtitled this blog “Musings” for times like this. As “Army Wives” character said, “The future doesn’t stop.” It has a way of becoming our present, and we must find a way to meet it in the here and now. How we do that shapes how we live our present. I Corinthians 13, the well known LOVE chapter, says, “[Love] always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres . . . . And now these three remain: faith, hope, and love. But the greatest of these is love.” What this says to me is that hope must have substance to be hope that does not disappoint. For me that means it is found most truly in an immutable, omnipotent God who loves each of us with a steadfast and everlasting love. But whether it is for you, or not, hope is most durable when it walks hand in hand with love.

We live in a world where terrible things happen, and when they happen to us, we often get stuck. We see only the devastating present. I think that’s where a lot of us are, individually and corporately. This repetitive appearance of HOPE in everything I read and view of late feels like a rallying cry, in the face of all that denies it, to get us moving. But hope only works if it has meaning. Hope only works if we believe in its essential goodness and affirmation of life. Hope only works if we put it in motion. And it only works in the here and now.

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Responses

  1. I just stumbled across your blog, ironically enough looking for a Welsh Dragon. You tag field caught my eye, one entry in particular, the phrase “Things we lost in the fire.” It turns out I completely missed the release of this movie, which I think I may enjoy. You see, my home was destroyed by a wildfire on Oct 23, 20007, 3 days before the release of the movie. I wonder now if the movie was even released in Southern California, due to the awful timing.

    Your blog post above, how much hope you see all around you, resonates with me. I’ve suffered from PTSD and depression in the aftermath of this personal holocaust. The road to recovery has been a long and bitter one, and I’ve hit my share of bogs and wrong turnings along the way. The outpouring of love and support for my family and myself has been amazing to witness, and yet I often seem powerless to hold onto hope, even as I watch these miracles unfold around me.

    And yet, I trudge on, with the faint hope that one day things may seem a bit brighter. I have good periods and bad, but the good periods have a way of sticking around, while the bad ones just blend into the awful grayness that inhabited so much of this year, refusing to stand out in any way. A rain storm, a fast-moving cloud, the face of an old friend, a voice on the phone, my daughter’s smile, all are lasting and powerful rays of hope that slice through the gray, I remember the flashes and endure the gray.

    Thanks for a note of hope just when I needed it, again.


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