[Buddha-l] Beyond Hope

jkirk jkirk at spro.net
Tue May 2 18:31:52 MDT 2006


".....Hope is, in fact, a curse, a bane. I say this not only because of the 
lovely Buddhist saying "Hope and fear chase each other's tails," not only 
because hope leads us away from the present, away from who and where we are 
right now and toward some imaginary future state. I say this because of what 
hope is.

More or less all of us yammer on more or less endlessly about hope. You 
wouldn't believe-or maybe you would-how many magazine editors have asked me 
to write about the apocalypse, then enjoined me to leave readers with a 
sense of hope. But what, precisely, is hope? At a talk I gave last spring, 
someone asked me to define it. I turned the question back on the audience, 
and here's the definition we all came up with: hope is a longing for a 
future condition over which you have no agency; it means you are essentially 

".............At one of my recent talks someone stood up during the Q and A 
and announced that the only reason people ever become activists is to feel 
better about themselves. Effectiveness really doesn't matter, he said, and 
it's egotistical to think it does.
I told him I disagreed.
Doesn't activism make you feel good? he asked.
Of course, I said, but that's not why I do it. If I only want to feel good, 
I can just masturbate. But I want to accomplish something in the real world.
Because I'm in love. With salmon, with trees outside my window, with baby 
lampreys living in sandy streambottoms, with slender salamanders crawling 
through the duff. And if you love, you act to defend your beloved. Of course 
results matter to you, but they don't determine whether or not you make the 
effort. You don't simply hope your beloved survives and thrives. You do what 
it takes. If my love doesn't cause me to protect those I love, it's not 
A WONDERFUL THING happens when you give up on hope, which is that you 
realize you never needed it in the first place. You realize that giving up 
on hope didn't kill you. It didn't even make you less effective. In fact it 
made you more effective, because you ceased relying on someone or something 
else to solve your problems-you ceased hoping your problems would somehow 
get solved through the magical assistance of God, the Great Mother, the 
Sierra Club, valiant tree-sitters, brave salmon, or even the Earth 
itself-and you just began doing whatever it takes to solve those problems 

"...And when you quit relying on hope, and instead begin to protect the 
people, things, and places you love, you become very dangerous indeed to 
those in power. In case you're wondering, that's a very good thing."

What are we, as members of this list, or as humans, or as Buddhists maybe, 
doing to solve some of these problems ourselves? Do we care? or did we just 
give up and turn to solipsistic recourses?

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