Saturday, June 25, 2005

Should We Hope?

All week long I have been thinking about the passage we read at meditation from Thich Nhat Hahn’s book Peace Is Every Step, in which Thich depicts hope as a barrier. He says that to really be in the present, we have to put hope aside – that it simply doesn’t serve us well in the present.

My initial reaction to this was that this might work for us middle to upper-middle class people who have fairly good lives. But for the homeless who were staying at the shelter down the street, hope was an essential ingredient of their existence. It was only the hope that the their status in life would change that kept them going. I was reminded in particular of a single woman at the Census Bureau whom we have been helping for at least 5 years. She hovers around the poverty line as she attempts to support 4 children and one grandchild on her salary. On Tuesday night her 19-year-old daughter Aisha, the mother of the grandchild, was caught in a drive-by shooting, where she was shot in the neck and left paralyzed and clinging to life. How could Thich deny this woman hope? Finding something positive in her present situation was out of the question.

When I told Rebecca about this discussion, she was outraged and fired back: “This is one of the first things that turned me against Thich. For heaven's sake, what the hell is he talking about? What a bleak world Thich inhabits.”

I have been struggling to see his point. Maybe he just wants to make sure we give more weight to “what is” than “what if”.

I don’t think I can rule hope out of my life. I hope for good health, long life, my children to be happy, all things that seem legitimate to me. After all, there really is a future, as much as we might like to think we can live in the present moment...

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