By living as though there is hope, we bring hope into being. Hope realizes itself. By living hopefully, expectantly, we become the hope that is absent in our life. Hope is not what we find in the world. Hope is what we bring to life in the world. Hope is the name for the creative, resilient aspect of perspective that finds meaning and purpose in the most unlikely places.
Hope and meaning and purpose are one thing. We have hope when there is meaning and purpose in our lives, and we live with meaning and purpose when we have hope. There is no hope without meaning and purpose, or meaning and purpose without hope. Hope, meaning and purpose are not found “out there,” like we might find a rock, or an eagle’s nest. But, what does a rock, or an eagle’s nest, mean? The rock means one thing to a geologist, and another to a boy with a slingshot. The eagle’s nest means one thing to an ornithologist, and another to a boy with a slingshot. The meaning of the thing is not in the thing, but in those who ascribe meaning to the thing, with those who can imagine a purpose for the thing. A cow means one thing to a cowboy, and another thing to a bull.
When we say our lives have meaning, we are saying that our lives mean something to somebody, particularly us. When we lament that life has lost all meaning, we are saying that we no longer find meaning in our lives. Things are not meaningful in themselves. “Meaningful” means something means something to someone. Whatever is meaningless means nothing to anyone. Meaningfulness, or meaninglessness, is not a quality of the thing in question, but an aspect of someone’s perspective regarding the thing—of someone’s relationship with the thing. We perceive meaning, and bring to the thing something it does not have without us. We perceive lack of meaning, and burden the thing with something it does not have apart from us.
The same goes with hope. Hope is a quality of perspective. Hope is what we bring to a situation. Hope is how we see a situation. Hope is how we live within a situation. Hope and meaning are our contribution to life in the world. What would life be without us—without the hope and meaning we bring to life in life?
There is nothing to having hope when meaning abounds and everything is going our way. It is easy to hope then. We begin to lose hope, when our plans, and our freedom to effect the plans begin to diminish. As we grow older, for instance, and can no longer plan to drive to California and surf at Big Sur, because we have lost the capacity, and the freedom, to do that, we might despair, and become hopeless. But, it’s all a matter of how we see things—of the extent to which we are able to “let go what’s going and let come what’s coming.”
Anybody can have hope when it is easy. There is nothing to having hope when you’re sitting on top of the world, with your youth and your health about you, with money in the bank, and nothing but roses and rainbows for as far as you can see. You don’t have to be either creative or resilient then. You sail as long as you feel like sailing, and then you take up mountain climbing, or build your own house in the woods by a lake, or become a dog sled racer, or sign on as a cook on a tugboat on the Mississippi. The world is full of things to do with your time, and your only problem is deciding what to do next. Meaning is everywhere then, and hope is as bright as tomorrow. Nothing to it when it’s like that.
It is not always like that. Hope is put to the test when things stop going our way. When we “fall on hard times,” what then? When life isn’t so easy, bouncy and bright, what then? What becomes of hope and meaning then? Then, hope and meaning wake up, and get to work. Then, creativity and resiliency look at each other and wink. It is precisely when things are not easy, and are no fun that perspective begins to “earn its keep,” and we discover that the way we look at things is more important than what we see.
What keeps us going? The answer is not “out there.” What keeps us going is “in here”—and those who “go best,” are those who are most conscious of bringing to life “out there” those qualities of heart, soul and spirit that are tucked away “in here.” It takes the right perspective to be able to do that. It takes the right perspective to be able live to exhibit the qualities and characteristics that transform life, bring hope to life in life, and provide meaning and purpose to our days—regardless of the situation or circumstance of our life.
Perspective is the magic that transforms the world. It is the panacea of Alchemy, the remedy for all ills, diseases, problems, predicaments, and difficulties. It is the Philosopher’s Stone, transforming everything we look at into wonders to behold. Shift the way we see things, and everything changes. Shift the way we see things, and we have what it takes to do what is necessary to transform our lives, and all of life. Shift the way we see things, and there is hope where there was no hope, meaning, where there was no meaning, purpose, where there was nothing but desperation crumbling into the Void. The key to the shift is remembering who we are, what we are about, and the invisible forces ready to help at every turn.
Identity, Integrity, Vision, Focus, Purpose, Clarity, Compassion and Awareness are the ground of hope, meaning, and perspective. What keeps us going is who we are. What keeps us going is what we are about. It isn’t what happens to us, or how much of what happens to us is agreeable to us, or how often things go our way, or how bright our future seems to be. It’s who we are and what we are about that drives us, that pulls us forward, that enables us to keep going with hope, meaning and purpose—toward the assistance that comes to meet us in unpredictable, unimaginable ways when we have the courage to move in the direction of what needs to be done no matter what.
Hope, meaning and purpose are what we produce out of our sense of who we are and what we are about—out of our sense of Identity, Integrity, Vision, Focus, Purpose, Clarity, Compassion and Awareness. The people who have lost all hope have really lost their sense of who they are and what they are about. They have lost their soul. It’s easy to do. The world seems to be geared to strip us of our sense of identity and purpose. It’s a fight to maintain the perspective that sees into the heart of things, and enables us to be about what we are here to be about.
The primary act is the act of remembering. When the world would snatch our heart and soul away from us, we have to remember who we are and what we are about—and all that is in this on our side, pulling for us. We live out of who we are. We live toward what we are about. The world does what the world does best, and we do what we do best.
The plan is to do the work—our work—the work that is ours to do—within the time and place of our living. It’s a lot like character acting. We live to be who we are, day in and day out, for the rest of our life. We do what is ours to do, never mind the conditions or the outcome. We don’t measure the quality of our life by the results of our living. We find something we want to do well, and do it well. We find something we want to do well, and do it well when we are not in the mood to do it at all.
Jack Palance and Lon Cheney may have gotten tired of the roles they always played (and with “City Slickers,” Palance was able to do a neat role-reversal before our eyes), but they played their roles well, and you get the idea that Mae West adored being Mae West, in season and out of season. There you are. That’s all there is to it.
We are who we are. After some years, we can look around, and say, “This is it,” and be right. We can rearrange the furniture and knock out a wall or two, along the way, but the foundation is pretty much in place. The future is not going to be “real different” from what it has been in the past, not different enough to count, anyway. Not as different as it would have been with different parents, and a different point of origin.
The trick is to take the givens, and make the best of them, make the most of them. The trick is to settle into our lives, and live toward the best we can imagine—and when we imagine something better, live toward that. We live so as to change what can be changed in the service of the best we can imagine. We do what we can to avoid pathology, and embrace conditions conducive to our support and development. We do so without thinking that “arrival” is one alteration away. We never get beyond doing what can be done about what needs to be done in each situation as it arises. We never complete the work that is ours to do.
We get up each day and do the good as well as we can do it that day, and we do it again tomorrow, whether whatever we imagine happening in response happens or not. No matter what happens, the good still needs to be done as well as we can do it—everyday for the rest of our life—living to express who we are by being about what we are to be about.