the discipline of hope

Here at the outset of a new year,
there are things, I suspect,
that each of us should just go ahead and
give up on.

Things we have long been waiting for.
Things we’ve long been anticipating—
working toward—
praying for.
Good things,
but things, again,
I suspect we should just give up on.
And here’s why:
because these are the things,
time and time again,
about which we remember
having thought to ourselves,
“Maybe this time.
Maybe this time it will be different.”

And yet.
It never has been.

And yet
we cling to hope,
time and time again,
amidst ever recurring disappointment,
within the frustration,
through the tears and the anger,
despite the way it always has been—
the way it is.

There’s indubitably
a potentially unhealthy dimension to this.
The word obsessive comes to mind.
You know Albert Einstein’s definition of insanity?
“Doing the same thing over and over again
and expecting different results.”

And yet.

I have continued to enjoy Lily Tomlin’s definition of forgiveness
giving up all hope for a better past.
But what is it
when we give up all hope for a better tomorrow?

And what is it when we don’t?

I remember in several conversations
with different friends
in different circumstances,
thinking to myself, “I don’t know, down the road,
if I’ll admire you for your persistence in hope
and end up being grateful for it,
or so very much regret how much you invested,
over and over again,
in what never ended up being made manifest.”

It was Alexander Pope
who wrote, “Hope springs eternal in the human breast”,
but his is an observation inherent to our very marking of time.

For there’s always a new day—
a new week,
always a new month—
a new year.

And each is hopefully more than just cyclical—
here it is again.
Hopefully, each represents
a marker of growth and development.

And yet
each also always contains the implicit possibility
of starting over.
Here we go again.
Maybe this time.
Maybe this time it will be different.

So at this time of beginning again,
January 2014,
may we be vulnerably honest—
not in our evaluations of what’s feasible—
sensible, efficient, even realistic or wise,
but of what’s worthy.
And may we be fools
in our commitment
not just to what’s real,
but also to what’s really really good,
and make of our waiting
more than impatience and frustration,
living lives of anticipatory joy.


2 thoughts on “the discipline of hope

  1. Many in the helping professions are familiar with anticipatory grief, a usually normal mourning experienced before an impending loss. It is interesting to think about “anticipatory joy” as a normal something experienced and practiced before an impending “larger truth” of joy. Reading your sermon “waiting for the light of joy” helps me to understand how one might live a life of anticipatory joy. Thank you for this, and for the blessing.

    1. hey Marsha! I know anticipatory grief. hadn’t thought about anticipatory joy as kind of an inverse. worth thinking about. thank you!

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