Over at the Mindful Moment, Dean has an excellent post about the illusions people have about hope. Whenever concerns about the future come up, I find hope to be like a bottle of quality microbrew after a long day. It's usually something that's nicely packaged, good tasting, and guaranteed to offer some short term relief from the pain. The problem is that hoping takes us away from what's present. And it also diverts us away from the deep source pool from which our future springs forth. To put stock in hope means to privilege an empty story over the wholeness that's inherent in each of us, if we only trusted it more. Dean writes:
In my experience and spiritual practice I've found hope is not a good thing. It's limits ones spiritual development. It isn't good because it in fact is a very subtle form of desire and control that makes us cling to our sense of self and our suffering, prolongs our suffering and keeps us suffering. It is an illusion of a sense of control that we don't actually have. Hope is nothing, it's not even a tangible 'anything', it's just a subtle desire for a future positive event or away from a future negative event.
I'd actually say that it isn't even about positive or negative. Spiteful politicians sometimes spend enormous amounts of energy hoping their political opponents are taken down, or even killed off. Greedy business leaders sometimes invest entire fortunes on schemes built on a hope that doing them will crush the competition. Seriously ill or seriously depressed people sometimes hope to die. Rebellious teenagers sometimes hope to fail exams, and flunk out of school. The common thread, whether the desired outcome is positive or negative in the relative sense, is that desire for control Dean speaks of. Control over what? Change.
I don't know about you, but I have never had any luck control changing. Certainly, I can plant seeds for the direction I'd like to go in, and shift my thoughts and behaviors to increase the possibility of that direction manifesting. And I can regulate my responses to whatever actually does occur. But controlling change itself? I don't think so.
The other thing I actually have come to see about hope is that it puts a lock on the doors of our life. Instead of having everything open and available in any given time, you only have a few doors open. The ones you hope for, and the ones you don't hope for.
That's the place you're operating from. I hope to get a job by the end of the month; I hope I don't go broke. Either one of the two "hopes" happen, or something entirely different occurs. With the former, the pattern of belief in hoping is reinforced. The latter often brings with it a surprise laced with confusion and even bewilderment. I didn't expect to inherit this money. What do I do now? Do I still get a job? Invest it? I don't know. I don't know.
In the end, when you give in to the seduction of hope, again and again, you loose the improvisation skills necessary to fully engage with life as it is.