Gerald May uses the expression of “naked hope” meaning that hope “is not tied to any particular end”. This understanding of hope is often the opposite of that to which most of us seem to prescribe. For the most part many of us like the idea of hoping in something, or hoping for a specific outcome. Hope in this instance is little more than wishful thinking or wanting. I hope I win the next lottery.
But what happens when that for which I have hoped is not realized. When it comes to winning or not winning the lottery many of us can easier tell ourselves that there will always be next time. (A friend of mine also reminds me to buy a ticket.) But what about those times when there isn’t a second chance (or third, or fourth…)?
Of course, the biggie in this life is often death. When we are told of our own or a loved one’s terminal illness, we often begin hoping for any number of things. We may hope for more time, or a cure, or a miracle. Often, we even hope against hope itself (whatever that may mean). Even when we are told that the only thing left is good care, we want something more. (Palliative Care often fights an uphill battle because no one really wants to be told nothing more can be done – for many in the medical field, death means defeat. Others may feel that doing nothing is the same is giving up.
Neither of these views is true. Death is never the victor. I often have used the expression of “death coming mercifully as opposed to being a friend”. Neither is dying well a matter of giving up. What we really need is as May has named “naked hope”. We need to look at life without any expectations of a specific outcome. I can’t help but wonder what would happen if we didn’t wait until the end of life for ourselves or others to start living this way.
Life is full of unexpected turns and twists. Robert Frost talks about the importance of choosing the road less travelled, but we don’t always have to do that to find unexpected results. We can also make life more difficult for ourselves when we refuse to accept that which comes our way. Now, I am not saying that we should just roll over and play dead. There are times when we need to stand up and be heard (ideally, we can do that respectfully despite the fact that the opposite is found so much on social media). But the real name of the game is to deal with the situation in which we find ourselves in a positive way. Harold Kushner wrote a whole book about dealing with life when “bad things happen to good people”.
The term “little death” has been used to talk about those times in life when we feel a huge loss (sometimes even retirement can be included here). Regardless of the “death” little or large, how we deal with it becomes central to us. If we get what we “hoped” for, than I suppose we should be happy, but even when we get a different outcome, we can still carry on.
Real hoping means being able to let go.