The dangers of hope

So here's the context of this musing: Earlier this year, I met, and fell hard in love with, an extraordinary woman. I've known a lot of women over the years, but I've never been with anyone who made me feel the way she does -- not just being in love (I've been down that path a few times), but a strong and definite feeling this is someone who could be, should be, a life partner.

And, for some reason, the poor woman is confused enough to like me back. But after a lot of thought and discussion, she has decided that right now there is not space for this relationship in her life. But, if circumstances change...no guarantees, but the possibility of there being a chance down the road is not excluded.

And so I'm holding on to hope.

So I've been contemplating the nature of hope recently. I mean, hope is supposed to be a 100% positive thing, right?

But the problem is that hope draws us out of the present moment. Hope is always about the future, and if we attach to thoughts of the future we're lost. As Zen teacher Charlotte Joko Beck wrote (in her book Everyday Zen: Love & Work):

I once said something in the zendo that upset a lot of people: I said, "To do this practice, we have to give up hope." Not many were happy about that. But what did I mean? I mean that we have to give up this idea in our heads that somehow, if we could only figure it out, there's some way to have this perfect life that is just right for us. Life is the way it is. And only when we begin to give up those maneuvers does life begin to be more satisfactory.

Certainly hopelessness is no good: after all, the Third Noble truth, that there is an end to suffering, is hope. With no hope, there's no reason to make that Right Effort. We have to see the possibilities and the way that they can be achieved.

But on the other hand, if we're so busy hoping that we miss the reality of the present, if we reject what is because we're looking for some magic that will Make It All Better, that's no good either.

It is a narrow path. And I'm sure I'll wander off of it many times in the months and years to come as I see where this all leads.

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Comments

I've given up hope

I'm in the same situation that you described and it's quite an agonizing experience with hope. I am going with the flow of life now instead of suppressing my feelings or over emphasizing the importance of it.

I'm wondering how you've fared since then, but so far I am still talking to this guy, and when I do I am happy.

I don't hope usually in my everyday life, but I do become a bit hopeful every time we speak. It's hard to describe the feeling, but I'm sure I've given up hope because all hope is unreasonable and painful given the circumstances and our distance.

Instead of thinking in the future tense, I have decided to conform to a believer of the present, do what I can do. But sometimes when I have too much time on my hand, I do let myself wander back to revisit and relive the past when we first met.

I guess in the end I came down to a very simple way of thinking and that is love is love, I can't help it but I can help myself-- which is the most important thing before I can ever truly love others.

I do vaguely remember one story of a person asking a very old couple how they managed to stay together for so long and that s/he hopes to be as happy as they are. And the man said: don't hope, do.

I hope, lol, I know this goes against all that I've just said, but I hope, that one day I'll meet someone who thinks like me too.

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