On The Need for Hope

December 31, 2018

As the year descends into its finale, my thoughts wander to the need for starting over.

Life is a continuous experience that we chop along arbitrary lines into neat pieces. Where a thing starts, or ends, is often a point of reference. But, with the coming end of a year, one can’t help but need to create an arbitrary starting point to change and begin over again. Without the distinction between a start and end, we are lost, like ships with broken sails wandering the vast and endless sea.

We need hope in new beginnings, even if it’s the bare nakedness of hoping in hope itself. Even if such hope does the opposite of calming the tidal wave of emotions and thoughts in ourselves. It is hope that brings us further and farther than we thought we could go. It puts us through drama, discomfort, and anxiety, to produce something greater than what came before it.

You can sit, and search for the tail of mind all you like. But like a game of peek-a-boo or the act of catching water in a net, it will always slip your grasp. So you are left, running circles like a dog, drowning deeper into a supposedly courageous quest. Certainly, there is courage to go astray in your own path, but there is also the courage to stay the course.

Understanding this, we then say that life, as it is, is unfair, pointless or that the existence of the individual is a romantic tragedy. As Nieztche put,

“Man is no longer the artist [as he had been in creating gods], he has become the work of art”

How could the gods have forsaken the Greeks? What force of natural selection would produce such a deeply horrifying outcome? How could one ever imagine stumbling onto a forbidden knowledge like this?

Of course, you could just as easily ask the counter question. What if this is as a feature, not a bug. A blessing, not a curse. A gift, not a metaphorical insult signed as some last divine comical joke.

If you can flip this script, and believe in something as simple as the grass is green, and it is just that. Watts would say,

“This is IT.”

If you can pull the breaks somewhere along the circular chain of cause and effect, and say this is where things need to stop. Having hope that tomorrow will not be today, that today I am better than I was yesterday, or that life is a rhythmic symphony of independent causes that emerge and decay slowly — with the high note always following the low one.

Then you have, at once, this strange and elusive power at your feet. It’s a power to move mountains, build spacecrafts, see into the heart of nature’s biological workings, or simply give the strength to haul Sisyphus’ great absurdity forward one more time.

But you can only see or do these things with some form of hope that growth and change, as it were, is a constant. That there will always be another start point, another page to begin, another year to start over, another love to foster. And with this, a realization that there will always be an endpoint. The book always has to finish, and the sun needs to go down to mark the next day. The people we love the most will fade away one day - ourselves in hot pursuit.

But the hope of beginnings and ends is the hope to keep living, striving or growing, as high as the tallest trees on this vast and grand Earth.

Because, man is not separate from nature. Man is nature, and nature is man — and nature’s never-ending call to action is the continuous expansion of itself, from start to end, forever, and always.