When I first started studying martial arts, it was apparent that patience and respect were two of the qualities being taught and which beginners were expected to master. I was eager to become involved with my new group, my class. That Valentine’s Day, I baked a cake for the class and decorated it, including in the decorations the words “Patience and respect are forms of love.” It was an insight which I gradually came to understand.
Martial arts have forms – formalized series of moves which, when integrated into muscle memory, are incorporated into the whole of a skilled variety of responses. Similarly, qualities such as patience and respect, when practiced and mastered, lead one deeper into the overarching and underlying quality of the universe, love. I would like to add two more qualities to the first ones I apprehended. Faith and hope are forms of love.
Faith and hope are like Siamese twins. They are attached and alike, yet they are not same. Faith is the firm belief that something is, something which is not necessarily readily perceivable through the five senses. Hope is the inner knowledge that our actions make a difference, and that we can affect reality for the better. Giving up and sliding into despair are the antithesis of both. Together, faith and hope hold the vision of the good to come and are instrumental in bringing that vision into the present moment. Although they are not same, it is difficult to express one without the other. If I speak of hope, I am also referencing faith.
At this particular crossroads in history, humanity – as individuals and in general – is in serious need of hope. As the pieces of our politics and social structures seem to be falling apart, we need continued hope that we can construct systems that support ourselves (humans) in a web that lovingly nurtures us instead of consuming us and pulling us apart. We also need the medicine of persistent hope to heal the larger system in which we and all of life exist. We need the inner knowledge that our actions can affect the healing of our planet, and that we need to act now. In either case, to descend into apathy, despair and inaction is the opposite of hope, the absence of love. Hope will lead us to the healthy and beautiful life we desire; apathy will lead us into further destruction.
We all need to be pro-life. I am not speaking of the political issue labeled “choice”, although I could. I am speaking of the need to choose life (another form of love), to embrace life in support of our planet and all its inhabitants, who are on this journey with us. We have pushed apathy, despair, conflict and inaction as far as we can without incurring results which we do not desire, results which any of us who are willing to look can see looming on the horizon. Those of us who hope are not blind to those destructive outcomes; we prefer to focus attention on the hopeful vision of the more peaceful, just, kinder, more beautiful world we all desire. The hopeful prefer to actively direct efforts forward in the direction of that hope. The hopeful understand that we can, by the combination of our individual actions, still affect the outworking of the present in a way that nurtures us all. To refuse action, or to act otherwise, is to refuse hope.
Many of the youth of our planet are leading us in the direction of hope, even though apathy is a challenge for the young and adult alike. From calls to action and marches in the streets, to simple acts of recycling and reduction of consumption, to helping to restore damaged forests and wildlife, to creating songs and stories, to lobbying politicians and ensuring voters are aware of issues, the young are each doing their own parts, according to the talents of each. Yes, some are still apathetic, but we are seeing an awakening and a grand emergence of activity. They are doing their duty of speaking out, and more.
It is our job as adults to listen and respond, to act and to guide. Many adults are also acting, each according to his or her own strengths and calling. Still, too many continue mired in apathy, either not looking, or not caring, or without the hope that their actions can be effective. To act takes effort. It takes energy. Apathy and despair destroy our energy. Hope can revitalize it, provide the energy we need for effort, for carving out the time to do our parts.
For as long as can be remembered, people have spoken of the generation gap and fear that they will be forever cut off from the young for whom they have facilitated life. Yet, generation after generation, the young morph into adults who can finally understand those who have gone before. If we (adults) wish to create a great chasm between us and those who are approaching or just entering adulthood, we can continue in apathy, in talk instead of action, and allow the entire burden of the climate crisis to fall upon the youth who survive, as the crisis manages to decimate our ranks. Greta Thunberg put it simply, “We will never forgive you.”
There are myriad ways in which we can each engage. Hope requires that in whatever way we do it, we engage, every one of us. Hope knows that if we do this, we need not follow the path of lemmings over the cliff of self-destruction. Hope knows that in the present moment, there is time – the only time that exists. Now is when we need to act.
I hope; I hold hope for a planet healed in the life-giving fabric of love. I hold hope for those of us who still need to awaken. I hold hope for support for those of us who are carrying the energy of healing forward. May we each awaken to take our first breath of that hope which fuels us, and which can move forward the healing of our planet.