Sunday, January 3, 2010




There has been a lot of talk recently about ‘hope and change.’ Let’s riff on this cliché. By cliché I am not disparaging the phrase, but rather asking that we not buy into it mindlessly. Ideologies thrive and run amok, whether on the left or right, because people don’t think about the presupposed ideas. We buy into clever sounding assumptions and bumper sticker slogans without examining the statements. Like Chicken Little, we are thumped on the noggin by something that clearly requires our attention. But do we stop to examine what really hit us?

The word hope comes from the Old English hopian, meaning to "wish, expect, look forward to something.” Some suggest it is related to the word ‘hop,’ suggesting the notion of "leaping in expectation."

Hope then is living in a state of hopping – always moving to a different destination and not really wondering what there is to get from the current position. This is especially true of uncomfortable situations and people. We declare war, divorce, vote, march, preach, run, jog, diet, change channels, change clothes, change hair styles and hop off in hope of something new, better and different.

If the Universe has some sort of intelligence behind it, then the current situation(s) are significant. Even if we do need to move forward, we need to examine where we are actually moving from. If we are connected to some vast realm (kingdom of Heaven, Buddha nature, God, Inspiration, etc.), then perhaps the uncomfortable symptoms contain vital experiences for the souls unfolding.

Even our supposed spiritual programs use spiritual practices to escape or transcend; always hoping for a healing, a miracle, wholeness or salvation from something undesirable. Who is to say that what is annoying the hell out of me right now is not the most desirable for my soul’s evolution?

James Hillman suggests that ‘interest is more important than hope.’ Hope implies that one is waiting for something to pass. A ‘hopeful’ person is often not engaged with the ‘pathos’ or passion of the moment – personally, politically, spiritually, emotionally or intellectually. We are merely spectators or observers rather than participants. We are 'anticipators' rather than participators, and participators 'take part' and 'take apart'.

The word ‘interest’ is from the Latin interresse which literally means "to be between". The word comes from two words: inter- "between" + esse "to be." It was originally used in legal matters where an unpaid debt was owed, and where the ‘interested’ party was focused on the 'in between' period, wondering whether she would get her money back or not. It also referred to the 'interest' that was gained 'in between' the loaning of money to a lender and having it paid back.

Over time the word came to mean ‘curious’ because one was in the waiting place, the inactive gap, the tense moment in between what was and what would be. For the Psyche in Depth Psychology, it refers to the 'interesting' gap that contains the invisible stuff of soul--the carving out of the new space, the confusing interior excavation for the new insights, or the new in-site. The focus is not on some imagined or 'hoped for' future, but on what is available to soul right now. Often these 'revelations' are not cerebrally conceptual, or realized by getting hold of some information, but truly are in-sites, or soul-sites created by the visceral excavations wrought by anxiety, grief, fear and confusion--all as necessary and purposeful as the jackhammer and wrecking ball of the construction crew creating a site for the new skyscraper. Only through faith can one see beyond the havoc to the new structure, but the energy and focus must be on the excavation, the interesting space.

But most of us in this culture have been informed by an Augustinian Christian notion of sin and salvation, awaiting the hope of Jesus' deliverance. Modern politics, heavily influenced by Marx and Comte, have shifted this deliverance to a secular version of a political Messiah or social activism (the relatively new field of secular religion called sociology). This is true of Liberals and Conservatives; Barack or Sarah will save us . Nationalized Health Care will save us, or at least give us better medical care, making us forget that we are all going to grow old and die no matter how cheap medical care becomes.

But a hoper is a hopper, and those evangelists, gurus and politicians who appeal to our addiction to hoping and hopping will attract us. They make us believe that our current pains and problems will be solved by hopping toward what they promise. They don't ask us to reside in the interesting place. They do not teach us to utilize careful and compassionate reflection on the moment of crucifixion. They give us a 'VISION,' or 'PURPOSE,' or an intention which is really extension out of the pain, looking and hoping for that better thing to come. These Peddlers of Hope want us to believe in 'hope and change,' as if these were virtues rather than just neutral means to many different kinds of objectives. An algebra student, with the final exam on his desk, can be filled with hope and change, but if he doesn't complete the exam with the correct answers, his ass fails the course and he repeats it if he wants the degree. He had better get interested, be in between, and pay rapt attention to the travail in front of him.

Television, movies, classrooms, seminars and books have made us hopeful people rather than people interested in what is going on right now. The kind of interest I am seeing here is more than the old Hippie and current New Age notions of ‘being in the moment.' This facile idea often implies that one find a way to milk joy out of any situation, find the beautiful sunset in the midst of grief, make a list of tent things to be thankful for, etc. --all good exercises, but not what I am talking about. Nor am I talking about being interested when things are going well. It is easy to be interested when all is going well. No one wants to hop out of a session of great sex or time with friends. Many of us have had the experience of regretting that a great book was coming to an end. Why? Because we are engaged – we are ‘in between’ yesterday and tomorrow, between what was and what may be. We are interested, invested, fully participating. There is no need for hope. I am talking about becoming interested when the crap hits the fan and your ass is falling off.

What if we could acquire or learn this kind of interest when in our depressions? What if we could enter fully into that 'being in between' gap with our fears and worries? And how about our enemies? Imagine moving into that curious rift with them, even mentally if they won’t join me. Read their literature, not to criticize or fault-find, but to understand. Think their thoughts. Attend their churches or political rallies. Enter the mind and heart of your partner at his or her worst. Enter into your own responses to painful moments; not to change anything, or lessen the pain, but to pay attention to them. Pay attention to your insanities, intuitions and fantasies. Pull over to the side of the road on your breakneck trip to the Land of Hope and rest in your nightmares and troubling dreams. Become curious. See the Emotions as Divine Visitors, as angels with personal messages like the dream that troubled Mary with the news, "Hey, you are pregnant; buckle up for nine months of morning sickness and two years of changing crappy diapers." Resist the natural impulse to hop ahead or to hope for change. Most often, if Psyche is not done with us, hope and change are just postponements of what will return again and again until these messages are attended to, or simply endured as they gestate in the womb of the unconscious. The Christ will be born, eventually.

No comments: