Some days everything feels like too much. We see too much. We hear too much. We think too much. We feel too much. Like a thousand tiny razor blades filling the air, every movement lacerates with varying degrees of deepness and severity. Lost and lonely on a planet whose atmosphere is plagued by the death of a thousand tiny paper-cuts; everything aches and bristles. But, this is also where hope happens.
When our meekness is met by the mysterium tremendum of all that is, we wander through the world like an open wound. Exposed and tender to the touch of the entire universe. Every nerve somehow made raw by the swirling surge of sensations that Maria Popova might call our “extreme sensitivity to aliveness” or our “terrifying capacity to be moved by the world”.
We know what it’s like to be, or at least to feel, so small; to be so frail in the face of all the vastness outside ourselves. But, when we are lonely and minute at the foot of a mountain’s menace and magnitude, we must not only believe that a mustard seed matters, we must also learn to let it be the mother to our faith.
That’s what hope is. That’s what hope does. That’s what hope is for.
Hope begins its life as a seed planted in the dark; an infinitesimal grain of unrealized potential cradled in the black and brooding ground of our being.
Having hope is hard. Sometimes it even hurts. Especially, when you haven’t had it or held it for so long. When feeling hopeless is what you’re used to, when it solidifies into a semblance of normalcy, feeling hopeful is terrifying. Not only because it feels so foreign, but also because behind the comfort is the terror of how much harder it would be to go back to living without hope after you’ve had a taste of it.
When we are never filled to our fullest, when we are always pivoting between half-empty and utterly abandoned, many of us have simply given up on ever finding hope entirely. Instead, we shift our focus to finding only consolation. With the grand prize so impossibly out of reach, we begrudgingly accept what’s behind door number two. We take our parting gift and go. Life becomes a string of coping mechanisms to help alleviate the absence of hope. We make strides in the service of surviving. We find methods to make it to the end of the day, in what Matt Haig calls “the bare bones of getting through”.
Some of us can only scrounge up enough strength to hope for hope. And yet, maybe that small sliver is the start everything.
Hope has an uncanny ability to stretch across the breadth and depth of suffering, sadness, sorrow, trauma, and lack. Hope is something so close, something so prescient and so immediate, something always intimate and ready at hand.
Hope is the silent letter of our hearts, quietly upholding the language of who we are; the still small voice that whispers the secret of water pouring over the desert parts of our souls; hope is not something that was ever intended to be held.
Hope, like all seeds, must be sown.
Hope, like all seeds, must be buried in the blind breathlessness of our inner soil.
Hope, like all seeds, anchors itself amidst the darkness and decay.
But, to do this, we must cast our hopes far and wide; farther and wider than we are comfortable with or prepared for.
Some will fall by the wayside. Some will be devoured by the scavengers that would seek to pick us clean. Some will fall in stony places, hardened and tempered by the vacancy of disquiet and disuse. Some will scorch and wither; exposed without shield or shade from the elements of our dismay. Some will be choked among thorns closing in with sharp and constricting density. But, some will manage to creep into the crevices of our disarray and find their way to good ground.
When they do, they take root. They grow tall, and they turn water and sunshine into branching shelters of solace and relief for ourselves and for the world.
Hope may seem like such a small and unfinished thing, but a seed is never incomplete. At it’s core it contains the entirety of all it will turn into. It is simply a part of the dynamic process of growth and maturation; unfolding into fullness and increasing in the complexity of its completeness.
But before anything else, hope is what happens in the dark. Hope is what happens when something begins to grow in the absence of light, because hope is what carries us towards it.