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what is this ‘hope’?

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Each moment contains fresh awareness. Hopes and delusions: nothing stays the same. I hesitate to describe this moment’s state of mind as hopeful and free of pain. Why hold back? A patient once told me that “I don’t like to say that I’m feeling better; I’m afraid people will be less attentive, thinking I don’t need their care as much as when the pain was more acute.”

In writing this blog I aim to report honestly. So yes, today, right now, as I sit at the keyboard after a morning’s hour of leisurely reading, I’m well. A softer sadness from yesterday’s, vertigo less dominant, the heart at ease. “In the [Tibetan] Buddhist view,” writes Christine Longaker,

“… life and death are not seen as two separate things, but as different aspects of the whole. As an end to this life, death is very real. Yet death is also the doorway into another type of existence, where our evolution continues.”

leaf shootI remain unsure of what such “existence” might be. Reading the Tibetan view metaphorically, however, invites me to consider the word death to mean ending, termination, or transformation, pointing towards conversion of one form into another. Just as compost, gardener would say: leaves grow to serve their purposes in the life of a tree and its inhabitants, they change colours, dry up, fall to the ground, decompose, offer shelter to wintering creatures, incubate fungi and molds, and eventually turn into humus which then nourishes new growth. What can be described as stages are in fact one continuous process.

Etymologically, humus and humility share common roots. In Carl Leggo’s words: 



Located in the earth,
knowing the heart,
I will learn by heart
the earth’s rhythms,
rooted in humility
for forgetting and forgiving,
rooted in courage
for remembering and giving. 

source: Longaker, C. (1997). Facing death and finding hope: a guide to the emotional and spiritual care of the dying. New York: Broadway, p.27. Leggo, C. (2001). Writing lives is more than writing lines: postmodern perspectives on life writing. Language & Literacy: A Canadian Educational E-Journal. Vol. 22. Retrieved from the internet.


4 responses »

  1. What is Hope,

    “. . . rooted in humility
    for forgetting and forgiving,
    rooted in courage
    for remembering and giving . . .”

    I’m pretty good at forgiving, but boy, is it ever so hard to forget. I guess I need to learn to give more by remembering less.

    Michael J

    • I too find it difficult to “forget,” michael. I hang on, remember, again and agaian — inducing suffering in each turn. perhaps there’s a purpose in “lest we forget.’ probably not the act or events themselves, but the teachings. what exacrtly am I to remember?

  2. Peter, a loss of this kind, like death, is the taking off of a coat that is no longer needed or is no longer ours. And we may have worn it so long or so happily that it seems or feels almost to be us, despite what our beliefs tell us. It is only a coat, but we have lived in it and enjoyed and maybe loved it. All we can do, faced with such a loss, is to keep our hearts open, even ‘in hell’ as Levine put it, and be as much as possible with that which is beyond ego, time, change and form. We are not obliged to forget.
    ‘The pain of life is the price paid for the quickening of the heart… change is at once birth and death.’ (Inayat Khan)
    You may or may not relate to this. If not, please just delete, mentally and otherwise!

  3. compost (nutrient cycling) or the circle of life – change is everywhere.

    Today I learned one friend’s mother has died and that another friend is expecting her first child. A simple unfolding of events.

    The message I have taken from this day: to deeply embrace what is no matter how painful and find hope-wonder is what is to come.


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