When we are young, hope comes easy. As searchers, we believe that we will someday discover some unalloyed truth. As artists, we trust that we will someday taste a fully blossomed beauty. As doers, we expect that we will be able to find some unalloyed good, or at least reach some place of lasting happiness. After drinking from the bitter cup of experience, it is natural to question the maturity of our earlier hopes- to question hope itself.
Hope is not some wispy dream that may or may not be realized. Hope is our sense of the energy of life itself. Hope is the soul’s orientation into the future. It is our trust in the creative unfolding of the universe.
Hope cannot be defeated by any roll of fortune’s dice because it is not directed toward any object in life, it is aimed at life itself. Hope beats silently behind the ebb and flow of events. Buried beneath a sea of ashes the soul cannot but dream of beauty. Chained to the withered tree of sorrow, the soul still envisions some future happiness. Lost in a hopeless fog of lies, the soul cannot but squint for a beacon of truth.
Antoine de Saint-Exupery believed that no one has the right to despair. He said that all of us are messengers of a thing greater than ourselves. From this point of view, despair is the rejection of the larger life of which our little lives are but an expression. Hope is not deceived by the puppet figures dancing before us in the shape of success or failure. Hope is not some desired outcome, but the energy that drives the heart, and the stars as well.
This is the very thing we talk about with some of our hospice patients or people who wonder where the hope is in terminal illness. Even in death, we don’t need to despair, because each breath we draw is part of that energy of life…the ebb and flow of the universe of which we are a part.
Katrina, every good chaplain I’ve ever met is a mystic. You all weave in and out of religion depending on what people need, but you always do it from a depth that gives comfort to the dying and the living alike.