The 2010’s — the Decade of Hope
By Jane Tawel
December 27, 2019
The autopsies on the past decade that are currently filling the newspapers and social media platforms range from “unraveling” to “intrusive” to “anxious” to “rage-inducing” and epitaphs much worse, including those using words unprintable here. And these opinion makers are so right, that this morning, I found myself thinking: “I cannot possibly get any more depressed and ungrateful and unhopeful about the future than I already am.” And like so many people today, I too, find that lately, my views on my country, the world, the planet, my friends and foes, and myself are colored most often by the haters and naysayers. I don’t remember having the undercurrents of depression and angst and Müdigkeit der Weltthat aka world weariness, that I have had so often recently, probably not since I was a hormonal, angsting pre-teen. But as the decade winds down, and we approach the serendipitously named year of 2020, maybe we all need to switch out our gray colored glasses, and put on a rosier tint. We need some hope ‘round here, ya’all.
I do not for a minute believe that we should feel hopeful despite the truth of what it seems we humans have devolved to — more often zombie than human, more of us reduced to animals than elevated to higher beings, more of our preachers and speakers demonic sounding than angelic heralding. Nope — I am not at all in denial of all the work that we will need to get done to fix our messes and life-threatening, soul-crushing problems; and I am not suggesting that we will survive by lying to ourselves about the major and radical changes necessary in the hearts and minds and lifestyles of our fellow human beings. I believe, rather, in a deep necessity to ferment an expectation of the real possibility that there will be good changes made possible by good people. I encourage us all to find the hopeful desire to not declare the patient dead until we have exhausted all possible life-saving tools we have.
Many of us refuse to blind ourselves to the truth of what we are waking up to after the past decade, but we don’t need to go full-out Oedipal and blind ourselves to hope. Because we can’t forget, that the past decade was not just one of lies and destruction and hopelessness, but also one of truth and planting, healing and hopefulness.
Here are just a couple of practical ways that I plan on stoking hopefulness in my own life. They are resolutions of a sort for the coming year of 2020, but they are also reminders I plan on giving myself when I feel helpless and hopeless. They are a couple of “muscle builders” so to speak, to build up the muscles of my heart to practice hope again. Hope is for marathon runners, not sprinters, so we have to practice and work at it daily. These are just a few ways that I plan to work on and ideas I plan to remind myself of in order to use what power I actually have to fight the currents of depression, hopelessness, and personal and planetary wrongs, both within myself and in the world in which I live. Because ultimately, hope comes through one’s inner resolve and one’s use of outer reminders; just like breath, we must breathe hope in and breathe hope out. In 2020, I resolve to be better and try consistently to do the following:
· If I say something negative, I will follow it with something positive. This is that old adage turned around, because frankly it isn’t realistic nor is it usually all that ethical to be silent about bad things and bad people. So rather than the old saw about “if you can’t say anything nice, don’t say anything at all”; I will do my utmost best to follow up anything negative that I say out-loud to another human being — anything that is negative, depressing, angry, prejudicial, hateful, whiny, or fear-mongering, with something — anything — that will counter-weigh that sentiment with something positive. Examples: Negative: I am so angry at all the trash people throw on my town’s streets. Positive: I am happy that I have the freedom and time and health to walk outside and pick up trash, thereby, helping both my planet, and friends and even my foes, and my own soul. Small acts of kindness will not go to waste. Negative: That friend is so rude, cancelling our lunch at the last minute to do something else. It makes me so angry. Positive: I had a lot of fun with her at the Christmas party last year, and always enjoy catching up with her, so I’ll take the relationship for what it is and not make myself unhappy by wishing it was more than she considers our friendship to be worth. Negative: That world-leader, news-maker, or boss is so stupid and hateful and destructive; what is the point anymore of even caring. I hate him/her. Positive: People are realizing the slippery slope we have been on, and I too have been on a slippery slope of destructive feelings and actions. I am alive and able to change; and change can begin with me today by doing such and such. And by forgiving people, even if they are never remorseful or never know of my forgiveness, can only help and strengthen me. Negative: My country is going to hell in a hand-basket. Positive: Remember how hopeful and elated and “all things are possible now” we all felt here in America in 2008 — still this decade. Not that long ago. Slippery slopes go the other way too — back up, not by slipping, but by climbing. Negative: I hate my nose / my love handles / my hair. Positive: I love my wrists / my ankles / my sense of humor. Negative: You, dear one of mine, are currently saying mean things to me, and you don’t love me, and I can not stand you! Positive: I am going to go make us a cup of tea, and cool my jets, and here is a little pat on the arm or kiss on the forehead which will have to do for now, until I can think of some actual words to say to you that are positive. The most positive thing I can say to you right now, is Bye-Bye, talk to you later.
This idea of always balancing the negative thoughts and words with the positive is not only good for me, but it is especially important for my close relationships. We tend to do a lot of “dumping” and sharing of the negatives with those we love, because we feel safe to do so with them. But especially in the world we live in today with its constant stream of information and misinformation, and its particularly rampant grey ethical views and dark decline in the ability to suss-out true Truth, we need to season our conversations with those we care about, with some sugar to balance out the spice, and some oil to balance the vinegar. Conversations that constantly tear down, need to be seriously and consciously counterbalanced with words that build up.
· Never Forget; and Remember the Past to pay forward Hope. Past successes in relationships, past heroes, past friends and family and fun-folks, past rulers and saints and gurus and parental figures — anyone who did the opposite of what the bad people are doing now, or made us experience the good feelings and hold close the good and hopeful ideas that people in our past have made us experience — those people can give us hope that things can change in the future.
If you can’t find actual people in your own past to do this, I feel so sad for you, I truly do, but you can still pay some hope forward by using some sort of creative gymnastics and by remembering the joy or goodness of imaginary characters. If someone is rude or crass, remember your favorite Jane Austin heroine or a character that Jimmy Stewart played in, well, anything, and think about her or him. If something is getting you down about your home, think about hobbit holes, or the house at “Howard’s End”, or the apartments of “Friends” or of “The Big Bang Theory” folks. If you feel there is no one to like or no one who likes you, and you can’t think of a single person that makes you smile, remember Will Ferrel in “Elf”, or the character of Babette in “Babette’s Feast”, or Gandalf, or Dumbledore or Marmee, or whomever you have recently found humor, friendship, solace and love from, even if imaginary.
But if you can, it is of course, best to remember your own past “characters”, and the good people, good times, and good feelings or actions you personally experienced with other humans. Meditating on the good of the past and good people in my past, can help me feel hopeful that Goodness once created, never really dies, but plays forward into, not only the rest of my life, but somehow, into other lives. Past actions of goodness, love, and hope are like stones dropped in a still pool, whose rings spread out, eternally circling the world and others’ lives, in ways we may never know or imagine. If some of the circles of love have been broken in your life today, complete the arc of the circle with love from your past and then roll it forward.
Examples from my own real life include: When I feel bad about my own father, I will make myself remember the good father figures I have been privileged to have in my life. When I despair that the planet will not survive our human foibles, I will remember the stories I have read about the scientists and children and un-likely moralists and ethicists who are rising up to fill the voids left by those who should be caring for and loving the world. When I feel bad about the mistakes I made/ make as a mother, I remember how much my own mother, “warts and all”, loved me and was proud of me and made me who I am today in so many ways; and I remind myself that no matter what mistakes she may have made, I still love her, and hopefully, my own children will have the same heritage from me — mistakes, and still, love. When I feel a sense of anguish and anger over our current morass either in government, religion, or social arenas, I will not forget the past policies of hope, the heroes who were the change, and the spiritual sages of the ages who still bring solace, love, and joy to the mind and heart. When I feel lonely, I will remember when I wasn’t. When I feel angry, I will remember when I wasn’t. When I feel fearful, I will whistle into the dark by remembering when I wasn’t. When I feel hateful, I will remember when I felt loving of those it was hard to love and when I was loved by those who found it hard at that moment to love me. By remembering the realities of the past, I will imagine the possibilities of the future.
The idea of “never forgetting” is of course indelibly written into our psyches as a cautionary tale about not forgetting the atrocities of the Holocaust and of the last World War; and we do well not to forget the bad stuff and bad people, and I refuse to go all gray and wishy-washy and politically correct and call certain people and things anything other than “bad”. Do we all at one time or another fall into the “bad” camp, sure, but that is more reason to call others out, not less. We should not forget our own mistakes and sins of the past, any more than we should not hold up to the light of truth, the current wrongs and sins of others; especially as we seem currently intent on repeating all the mistakes and hatreds that led up to those mid-20th-Century catastrophes in immorality, along with so many other awful, inconceivable and yet actual evil events throughout our history on this earth. But it is equally true, that we must not forget all the Courage and Good and Truth and Love that simple, solitary individuals, and whole communities and even nations of human beings are able and willing to live out and act with and on. By remembering, we play forward hope into the future. By focusing on what has been written in hopefulness and about goodness come to fruition in the past, we have a chance of rewriting the writing on the walls of the future.
· When I am depleted of hope, I will give hope to others. Just because I feel depressed and hopeless, doesn’t mean I have nothing to give to others or the world. In fact, by walking in the shoes of those who have spent a lifetime or centuries fighting extreme hopelessness, or by walking in the shoes of someone who has so much less in every way than I do, it is true, that I may often only get more depressed about the world and the world’s future and human beings’ treatment of each other, but I may find that by not making it all about me, by getting outside my own-self and by figuratively getting into another’s skin, I may discover that instead of more despair, I find true hope. The fact is, Hope must be communal to be truly worth-while, or it is merely a self-medicating temporary crutch.
Looking at the plight of others or bad things happening throughout the world, doesn’t mean I should give in and give up and become one of the selfish, self-protective, angry, fearful, depressed and depressing humans. Hopelessness is not stoicism or a gamble on a heavenly reward because none of this matters; hopelessness is an “eat, drink, and be merry for today I might die” kamikaze descent into meaninglessness. Looking at how bad others have it, or how much wrong is done in the rest of the world, or how destructive other nations or communities are, doesn’t mean I should decide to hoard what I have and “sit in the dark”. Hope is one of those amazing, magical qualities that only human beings have been granted by the gods. Hope is one of the supernatural powers we are all born with, that only grows bigger when a person gives it away.
Hope is like Love, it blossoms within and spreads without, when it is shared with others, and like all magic oils and potions, hope never runs out, no matter how much of it a person shares. And just like Love, Hope does not have to be a feeling you actually feel, in order to act it out and to act on it. As Emily Dickinson wrote, indeed, we must believe in hope before we actually experience it, because, “Hope is the thing with feathers, that perches in the soul and sings the tune without the words and never stops at all.” We do not have to find words to describe the truth of Hope’s existence, but rather we must use words, along with non-verbal actions, to create a safe haven for our hopes to survive the onslaught of everything that tries to deplete and kill it. We bear the burden of hope, and by doing so, we find that hope actually weighs nothing at all, being as light as a butterfly, winging on the winds of love.
As much as we need hope, Hope needs us. We do not have to give a loud clarion call, or a lengthy shout to give voice to hope; we do not need to preach it or substitute a false version of hope as an opiate to quell the despair or dire straits the world or other humans are in. In fact, Hope is best heard the more quiet it is. Hope should not be a substitute for truth and hard work, like a saccharine-saint masquerading as a nutrition-free, sugarless, panacea. No, Hope is best spoken and listened to as a still, small whisper. Or as an unvoiced gesture. Hope is best when it has skin in the game, with a touch of a hand or a hug or a caress.
Hope may seem to have gone AWOL in the past decade, but I have to have faith that it is still there, waiting for me; still here, simmering inside of me; still everywhere, in fact, just waiting for that small spark we all have somewhere in the depths of who we are, the spark of our souls. I choose to believe and resolve to believe that Hope is waiting for each of us to fan it into fiery flames of Hopefulness that lead to change; a blazing natural phenomenon, that will spread as surely as any tsunami of terror, or windbag of wiliness, or hurricane of hate. Hope is the fire that never burns, except with a stellar brightness to light the way and a warmth to keep our souls safe in the journey.
Hope in the coming year, is my goal, my resolution, and well, my hope. And, with any luck and a smidgen of unearned grace and a lot of hard work, Hope is my resolve for the coming decade.
Hope is the corrective vision we all need, in order to see 2020 for what it can be. Hope and Love are the corrective lens we all need to put on, in order to envision a better future and to walk forward with courage, even when we can’t see what is around the next dark bend ahead. If we only describe the past decade through the fears and hatreds that blind us, we will be unable to see the truth, seek the way, and live as healthy-sighted people.
We may not all have 20/20 vision today, but with a little hope, in 2020, and hopefully, for tomorrow, and tomorrow, and tomorrow, we can, like Supermen, see through the walls that separate us, and lead the world’s children, waiting hopefully, into a future when hope is no longer based on blind trust, but on a future reality in which hope is our eternally renewable Sun. While Truth instructs us that “there are none so blind as those who will not see”, 20/20 visionaries may also find that balancing our lives with shared positivity, encourages us to believe that there is nothing as strong as Hope.