Evolving From Hope to Hopelessness

Awakin Feature

[Rudolf Bahro said,] "When the forms of an old culture are dying, the new culture is created by a few people who are not afraid to be insecure." Could insecurity, self-doubt, be a good trait? I find it hard to imagine how I can work for the future without feeling grounded in the belief that my actions will make a difference. But Bahro offers a new prospect, that feeling insecure, even groundless, might actually increase my ability to stay in the work. [...]

Vaclav Havel helped me become further attracted to insecurity and not-knowing: "Hope," he states, "is not the conviction that something will turn out well, but the certainty that something makes sense regardless of how it turns out."

Havel seems to be describing not hope, but hopelessness. Being liberated from results, giving up outcomes, doing what feels right rather than effective. He helps me recall the Buddhist teaching that hopelessness is not the opposite of hope. Fear is. Hope and fear are inescapable partners. Anytime we hope for a certain outcome, and work hard to make it happen, then we also introduce fear-fear of failing, fear of loss. Hopelessness is free of fear and thus can feel quite liberating. I've listened to others describe this state. Unburdened of strong emotions, they describe the miraculous appearance of clarity and energy.

Thomas Merton, the late Christian mystic, clarified further the journey into hopelessness. In a letter to a friend, he advised: "Do not depend on the hope of results . . .you may have to face the fact that your work will be apparently worthless and even achieve no result at all, if not perhaps results opposite to what you expect. As you get used to this idea, you start more and more to concentrate not on the results, but on the value, the rightness, the truth of the work itself. . . .you gradually struggle less and less for an idea and more and more for specific people. . . In the end, it is the reality of personal relationship that saves everything."


Thomas Merton was right: We are consoled and strengthened by being hopeless together. We don't need specific outcomes. We need each other. Hopelessness has surprised me with patience. As I abandon the pursuit of effectiveness, and watch my anxiety fade, patience appears.

--Margaret Wheatley

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14 Previous Reflections:

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    On Mar 5, 2007 ???? wrote:
    What is hope?

    Hope is optimistic. It's as though to say, "It'll be alright in the end." It is a way to project yourself away from the present moment you are in, and run away into an imagined "better" place.

    It is a form of escape (from reality) so you do not have face or deal with that which is in front of you, right now. If the future does not exist (and I can asure you that it doesn't) then what place does hope have?

    Hope is a protective reaction when one finds themselves fearful of the future... what will it bring?

    If you take away fear or the future, hope is completely pointless and has no place. As such, it is seen as false and disappears.

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    On Mar 3, 2007 ??? wrote:
    The Havel quote makes me think of the Bhagavad Gita, with Krishna advising Arjuna to do his duty without concern for the fruit of the action.

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    On Mar 3, 2007 JZ wrote:

    On a slightly tangential note, Harvad just published their Breakthrough Ideas of 2007 and listed "hope" as #5:

    Most business leaders shy away from the word "hope." Yet hope has been shown to be the key ingredient of resilience in survivors of traumas ranging from prison camps to natural disasters. So if you are an executive trying to lead an organization through change, know that hope can be a potent force in your favor. And it’s yours to give.

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    On Feb 28, 2007 Anand H wrote:
    Wonderful article! I will also admit how extremely hard it is not to be pleased or disappointed with the results you are working towards.

    Having said that, if you are following the path that you believe in, it gets easier to focus on the action regardless of the outcome. The challenge for us is that a lot of our actions may not be something we truly care about without the "carrot" at the end of the line.

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    On Feb 27, 2007 John S. wrote:
    Hebrews 11:6
    And without faith it is impossible to please Him, for he who comes to God must believe that He is and that He is a rewarder of those who seek Him.

    Romans 8:28
    And we know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose.

    - New American Standard Bible

    Friends, it seems to me to be extremely difficult to choose to ignore outcomes and focus solely on process just because the results aren't very encouraging. I believe it's easier to have faith that the Savior Jesus Christ will keep His promise to allow good outcomes to come from actions that are in agreement with God's will. The idea of 'hopelessness' in this context saddens me.

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    On Feb 27, 2007 maryann moon wrote:
    Today in joy I give thanks for the brilliant
    new day and gather and gather silence.

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    On Feb 27, 2007 Ronda LaRue wrote:
    Ahhhh beautifully reflected!

    In my own soularts life work I've come to see (and better and better stand!) in the feild of unknowing where acton naturally arises from abiding Presence. Rather than hope, appears here, the Realization and actualization of one's true genius reclaimed as dynamic wholeness ..and the true "courage to create" (as Rollo May once put it) the call to this kind of reclamation of dynamic Being brings us alive! and we step over into the simple elegance of freedom in "eyes wide open" relationship to Life/God/Love....other and the groundless Ground of our Being.

    ...How awesomely paradoxical and free!

    Thanks you for this morning reflection and your call...

    ronda larue

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    On Feb 27, 2007 Rajeev wrote:
    Nice thought :-)

    My hope is in my Abba, heavenly father and for His will to be done in my life from this side of eternity to the other.

    God Bless us All!

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    On Feb 27, 2007 Laurie wrote:
    Hope is something that affects people on a cellular level-when it is time for the body to slow to nearly a standstill for protection one might wonder if that is hope, regardless of semantics. With the body in mind, one wonders if hopelessness described here is deadly-how does stop the body from breathing or reaching out to save another if that makes sense (surely a intellectual sort of discipline). Fish exhibit altruism: why shouldn't I?

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    On Feb 27, 2007 bharathi wrote:
    nice to read the differant comments..gives a free mind..but for me hope keeps me goin...once i ldrop it..i am lost..what happens then..

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    On Feb 26, 2007 shascita wrote:
    what margaret is talking about as hope & hopelessness is what i call faith. it's leaving the results of your actions to time, knowing that you must do what you feel you must do, regardless of whether it brings you what you think you want or something different. to me it's about understanding that there is a much larger force at work than we are generally able to consciously percieve -- it's about learning to hear & to listen to that inner voice that already understands what is right for each of us. when we're very quiet and still, the answers come, even if it's just a little bit at a time. :)

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    On Feb 23, 2007 Conrad wrote:
    Dean Sluyter in Why The Chicken Crossed the Road, talks about abandoning worry when he says, " A yet more profound liberation into Nowness comes from abandoning hope as well as worry. But that's an advanced technique."
    I write about it but I rarely do it. I am still often an worrier and a hoper.

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    On Feb 23, 2007 Conrad P. Pritscher wrote:
    When speak of hope we frequently speak of the idea of hope. The idea of hope often makes the distinction between the future and present. This is all there is. The here and now is here and now. Some sage said that nothing ever happened in the past and nothing will happen in the future. All that happens, happens now, or happens not at all. There is no future to hope for.

    I am also reminded that each of us, including myself, wants to know and we frequently know with words and ideas. Hopelessness and hope are not different when the kind of knowing we have knows that the way that can be said is not the way. We can know that compassion, patience, and being peaceful are the way for us, but for some people, words can "prove" to those using them that compassion, patience, and being peaceful are not the way for them.
    When we are one with everything, there is no need for hope or anything else.

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    On Feb 23, 2007 Xiaoshan wrote:
    Life was, is, and will be full of uncertainty and unpredictability regardless how one may struggle – you cannot change that. Then it is clear that ‘hopelessness’ can be a way to overcome the inevitability of fear and insecurity.

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