Hope as Skillful Practice

Last week we talked about what hope is and hope as a keystone of community gathering and community work.  The work where one or two or more gather together to do Goodness and walk the path of Love.  

We touched on hope as a skill last week.  This week we’ll reflect more on the importance of understanding and cultivating this skill.  Faith is work.  Faith is action. It is also a Pause.  A pause to pray, reflect, and ponder.  Each week, we come together in safe company to come Home.  To recharge our souls.  Then it’s a return to action where we must carry forth the light of hope into each week, each day, each moment.  

It’s a great thing that hope is a skill.  That means to practice, we must leave our safe places of Home.  Skills are learned, honed, and strengthened through our weeks, days, and moments of practice.  Hope is learned through setting realistic goals, following the path set out by those goals, and the belief that it is a worthy goal. Perhaps, it is simply our goal for the week set each Sunday when we come together, and faith in that goal, and faith that our collective small actions matter.  Perhaps, too, it is our bigger and wider and long terms goals.  Remember, it probably doesn’t matter that we are there to see things through to the end (is there an end?), but that we are part of the path to that end that we collectively believe in.  That we are a small piece in what matters most. 

In learning a skill (and in teaching those skills, for our parents and teachers in all the ways) it is important to guide others (young and old and everything in between) to make realistic goals, to encourage one another on the path toward those goals, and to have belief in those goals.  It is our work to help others succeed without clearing the path for them, even when we know better and we so so so don’t want others to stumble and fall in the same ways we did.  This is really hard to us as parents and teachers (in all the ways we parent and teach).  We want to clear the path,  we want to make it easy, but we must let others stumble, fall, and even fail to learn resilience and to grow.  Our job is to not let them lose hope in setback.  To not lose hope ourselves in setback.  To learn the skill of hope.  

To create new goals, new paths, and new belief.  Small hopes are part of the journey in the Bigger Journey.  All these little pathways of hope build deeper and stronger hope, which makes us wiser and more Good and more Faithful.   

Part of our human intellect is the ability to look forward and plan.  In fact, hope and goal setting are seated in the same part of the brain…the part of our brain that is more “human” and less primal.  Maybe it’s impossible for us to separate hope from planning and doing.  There are three ways in which we can look toward the future.  We can fantasize: things will be better when ___.  We can dwell: it’s never going to get better.  Or we can hope.  It’s only hope that gives us agency and action.  Perhaps that is why we are asked to hope in our faith.  

Hope helps us to choose wisely what to do and where to focus our energies.  (Remember despair leads to a mind unable to discern truth and reality).  Despair weakens us.  Hope makes us smarter and hope spreads, so perhaps by spreading hope, we spread smarts and mental resilience.   

We lose hope when we narrow our vision to only see the bad stuff and the stuff that isn’t true as true.  In some ways, we are designed to look at the narrow view.  We have been well trained to look to our own and to look for the danger…it’s only in the past few centuries and the past few decades that we have gained this huge vision of the world and we don’t have to walk around waiting for the hungry tiger to leap out and eat us.  For the most part, we are all pretty safe.  

Human intellect as a reason for hope.  It’s not the technology or social media that is the problem, it’s what we do with our human intellect (we know better, but we do it anyway) towards these things.  Every piece of technology that came, and comes, along is the end all.  It’s going to turn our brains to mush.  Starting with the wheel, the written word, the novel, the comic book, the TV and so on). But in all of that, there is reason for hope: we know not to spend all our time on devices and in front of screens.  We know better than to post that comment immediately.  There is hope in our human intellect and practice.  We, all of us, just need follow through on the goals and take the pathway we choose.  

Now what do we do with our larger vision of the world we have?  We see all the grime and dirt.  Mostly the grime and the dirt, unless we go visit the place or the story ourselves, because that’s what’s newsworthy…the bad.  What do we do with this larger vision of the world? We greet it with hope.  Hope as action.  Hope is work, but there is hope in what we are already doing and in what is already happening and unfolding.   

There is hope because we are smart and capable of working together.  We see what is wrong and we want to be helpful.  Hope helps us hone in on what we can do and what we have to offer.  Without hope we stand around unsure of what we can do, so we take videos to feel productive and useful instead of stepping in to help or out of the way to help.  We fail to see our small acts, or inactions, for the important work that they are.  

We have a human ability to disagree and discuss and work it out.  We have the gift of human language and communication.  We are able to accumulate and then share knowledge over long periods of time.  We are capable of learning from the past.  We have books that carry knowledge forward.  We can reason and solve problems.  The mind and hope are intertwined.  The heart and hope are intertwined.  

We miss the mark when we lose hope.  We miss the mark when we have the ability, but don’t use it.  We know we’ve lost hope when we believe the loud, aggressive, hopeless voices out there.  The voices that are no longer using the gift of human communication.  We know we have lost hope when we think only of this moment and our own now and not the future to come. We know we have lost hope when we fall into self blame and self criticism.  We know we have lost hope when we fall into blame and criticism.  We miss the mark when we give up on ourselves and those around us.  

The great thing about hope?  It’s a skill.  It’s an action verb.  It’s practice.  We can pick up the practice where we left off and have more hope.  In fact, we are called to do so.  Hope, the heart, the brain, and our human intellect are all intertwined.  Hope is what we Believe in and what we believe in in the meantime.  Hope is what we’re waiting for and what we’re doing and working toward in the meantime.  

Hope is bound up in our human intellect and human compassion.  We want to do good.  We notice the bad and the ugly and the unfair and we want to fix it.  We want to do good.  Hope helps us to plan and follow through and learn the practice of Hope.  In our Faith, it is the passion of Jesus the exemplifies this.  The passion as the keystone of the Path.  It is the Passion that awakens our Compassion.  Passion that leads to Compassion.  And that…is a reason for hope.  

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