Holding Hope


It's hard not to notice a pronounced feeling of… is it hopelessness? cropping up these days, bombarded as we are by that glut of disheartening news invading our airwaves.

If it's not a full-on loss of hope we're suffering, might we describe it as some type of emotional-processing overload: numbed-up affect, too much to digest, profound uncertainty, how to address problems too big to be solved, questions too complex to ever wrap our heads around?

I'm not the hopeless type myself. Yet I struggle to discern how best to use my personal energies in the face of widespread collective upset… and all while experiencing my own fluctuations of emotional response, from sorrow to fury to fuck-it-I'm-out. I admit I enjoy many privileges and blessings that shield me from the worst despair, so I feel obliged to hold my hope when the less-privileged cannot. I write as one of my primary means of fulfilling this obligation, and still I sometimes sit frozen at my desk, not finding faith that any meager string of words I produce could possibly make a difference in easing the world's infinite mountains of pain.

My version of hope is no love-and-light fest, predicated on the fantastical aim of attaining universal peace. Informed by my astrological worldview, I do not believe we will ever eradicate conflict, injustice, oppression, or violence. Could that even be a practical goal? From what I know of human nature, we each possess, in varying degrees, conscious and unconscious drives toward self-interest, to compete, to win, to snag what we see as 'ours', to seek power or be forced to hand it over… even as we also each hold, in similarly varying capacities, the urge to connect, to exchange, to agree, to unite, and to love. These exist simultaneously, side-by-side, all the time. I'm supposing they indefinitely will.

Should we reach anything resembling a great collective peace, there'd always be individuals in the group who found the 'peace' stifling… who felt mandatory compliance with such a group-minded objective to be utterly oppressive, and who would likely act to disrupt it. To think holistically and honor an inconceivable diversity of souls, we'd have to abandon any dichotomy which splits our shared existence into distinct opposing categories. This would include any relation which privileges 'peace' above its denigrated antitheses like unrest, upset, conflict, or even war.

The eternal law of light and dark: each requires the contrast with its opposite in order to exist. To transcend is to recognize the necessary partiality in either on its own—and to accept all of it as an inalienable aspect of being.

Because the world isn't becoming any more unfair, upsetting, or violent. It's always been like this. Only now, with our personal tech-devices instantaneously exposing us to the sacred truth of our immutable interconnectedness, it's much harder to get away from the constant reminders.

That leaves us to endure our periodic encounters with melancholy, cynicism, and overwhelm… these moments when the disheartening awareness that 'pain is eternal' turns so acute, it stops us in our tracks. This imperative pause-to-reflect may be emotionally trying, but also philosophically useful. It cuts through our otherwise mindless occupation with 'taking care of business' (and our compensatory pursuit of those placating pleasures, aaah!, when we're not on the clock). It recalls that very-widest perspective of all: the awareness of suffering and loss as constant presences which none of us will avoid growing closely acquainted with at some point in our lives.

When we bear that perspective in mind, we can hopefully become re-inspired to cram the most meaningful, tender, joyous, loving, gratitude-fostering experiences into the fabric of our everyday right now. Without these acutely disheartening moments, it's often too easy to neglect to prioritize what's really important to us.

Standing tall in this awareness, rather than crumbling under its existential weight, is no easy task. It surely requires courage and resolve, but is further supported by some sense of personal purpose… a drive to actually do something, with whichever unique skills or traits or passions we've been gifted, to help alleviate some specific slice of suffering and/or cultivate some seed of bliss, even knowing we can never fix everything that is rotten in the world. Even with all this in tow, we have our good days and our very-much-not-good days.

I wasn't able to finish this piece in a single sitting (as I usually do) because I got tangled in my own interrelations with this collective dismay. I kept chipping away at attempts to express my thoughts, but couldn't persist long enough to cohere them into a whole. (And this isn't the first time that's happened to me in recent weeks.) It's no accident I struggled to sit still when trying to tackle such a difficult topic… especially as I also continued flipping back to each piece of breaking news (I couldn't look away), each new woeful act of violence overtaking me with another emotional reaction. I uncomfortably grappled with acknowledging how my own stake as a queer man caused me to feel the Orlando shooting more personally than the other incidents, and am critically examining my various grief-responses. I devoted a large chunk of patience to a lengthy exchange with a Facebook friend who holds sharply opposing beliefs… a careful investment which paid modest dividends when she admittedly opened her mind to what I shared, and also as I reflected on my own tendency toward self-righteousness when arguing a point. I took a lot of time away from the computer to bask in a rare visit from my goddaughter Marley, savoring this special moment, knowing she'll only be almost-thirteen once. My heart appreciated all the attention.

And I continued writing, a token of my hope.

Though I've mentioned no astrology, this essay was very much conceived as a meditation on the current square between Saturn in Sagittarius and Neptune in Pisces, the most palpable outer-planet aspect of 2016.

Additional writings inspired by the Saturn-Neptune square:
The Saturn-Neptune Square & the Disenchantment in Moving Forward (11.15.15)
Knowing Better (11.29.15)