Throughout human history Hope has been seen as an essential quality that is needed to keep humans from failing into despair. In Dante’s Divine Comedy the sign above the entrance to the Inferno (Hell) is “Abandon Hope All Ye Who Enter Here.” This implies that living without hope can be a hell-like existence.
In the Greek myth, a girl named Pandora unwittingly opens a box that releases all sorts of woes and ailments upon humankind. However, she managed to close the box in time to keep inside one final quality; that of Hope. This story is often interpreted to mean that in spite of all humankind’s woes we still have Hope remaining.
Indeed, there are many stories of political prisoners, castaways and inmates of concentration camps who where kept alive through the experience of hope. The character Annie, the Orphan, expresses her hope in the wistful song,”Tomorrow, Tomorrow.” This sense of hope keeps her from utter despair amidst the harsh reality of living in an orphanage.
But there is another side of Hope: It keeps us fixated on the future and prevents us from fully experiencing the present moment. Not satisfied with the present we hope for satisfaction in the future: The mind is habitually moving into next moment (nexting) rather than landing fully in the here and now. Unsatisfied with the present moment, we habitually focus on the next moment as a source of fulfillment. This dynamic may be at the core of every obsession or addiction.
A Sufi tale tells of Mullah Nasrudden compulsively eating one hot chili pepper after another. The peppers are so hot that his lips and tongue are swollen and tears are running down his face. When asked why he was torturing himself by eating these hot peppers, Nasrudden replied, “I keep hoping for a sweet one!”
But the ego says:” Giving up hope means living in despair and hopelessness.
Maybe not; what if we gave up hopelessness as well?
If we give up hope and we give up hopelessness what do we have left? What’s left is the reality of present moment.
Hope and hopelessness are two sides of the same coin; both are focused on the future. Hope and hopelessness are reactions to an imagined future.
If we give up hope/ hopelessness we also give up fear, because fear, like hope, is always focused on the future. Hope and fear are intrinsically related; both entangle us in an imaginary future. The ego stands on the two legs of hope and fear.
To be hope/less is to be fearless, which bring us into the reality and the power of the present moment. Living in the future keeps us victims of our own imagination.
Living in the present empowers us. The only moment of choice is the present moment. When we live fully in the present we are always living at the point of choice. Living at the point of choice, we are creating our life anew in each moment rather than reacting to an imagined future.