Hope is both blessing and curse. It is a blessing when it gives us the confidence to act, to see beyond temporary obstacles and problems towards the greater good that stands in the uncertain distance. Hope gladdens the heart, turns our minds towards optimism and brings energy when we are low and tired. Hope can be skillful when it turns our efforts away from greed and hatred and towards charity and friendliness.
But hope is a curse as well. It is all too often bound up in clinging, in identity, in seeing ourselves in our goals. Hope can be irrational, leading us into fruitless goose-chases or worse, into acting in ways that are to our own detriment and the detriment of others. When we hope for a certain future for ourselves and our loved ones, we can hope desperately, with a rigidity and singleness of focus that becomes brittle. Those who impede our hope become problems, become dispensable, perhaps not even human.
The thing hoped for can become indistinguishable from ourselves: I am my future, this is me, this is mine, this is my self. We identify with great or important people, with political movements, with social causes. We identify not only with the program and its ideals, but with the winning that we feel is our just due.
Hope can become itself a form of greed, and can itself foment hatred.
And the world turns. Change is a disease endemic in all things. As we identify, so we are brought low by change.
The last hours have not been easy for me, and I suspect have not for many of us. In meditation my mind is beset by papañca, by a whirlwind of proliferating thoughts, by a parade of horribles.
The Buddha’s dhamma was a teaching of internal investigation and effort, for he believed that it was only through seeing and knowing things as they are that we can be freed from our fruitless attempts to cling to a world that persists in slipping through our fingers. It is only in witnessing dukkha as it manifests in our lives day to day, as it springs up in proliferations that carry us away and keep us awake at night, that we begin to understand dukkha as dukkha. We begin to see that the world is by nature unsatisfactory; that it provides no firm ground on which to base ourselves. It provides no hope for stability.
So, as always, we begin again at the beginning. We turn our minds towards charity, towards friendliness, towards a willingness to see the other person as a deluded being like ourselves, just trying to make it in the world, and making mistakes much like we ourselves do all the time.
We strive to abandon attachment. To cease clinging to results, to cease identifying our fleeting selves with some future that may be mere delusion.
So we begin again.