Hope is a Rope

Photo by Robert Cornelius

I have never been in good standing with hope. I could never articulate why.

I recently learned that in Hebrew the words hope and rope have the same root word, which makes perfect sense to my avoidance of the word.

In Zen we say ‘you bind yourself without even a rope’.

What we mean is that we are not free to respond or act freely in the world, because we cling to ideas and beliefs about how we think the world should be instead of relate to it as it is.

How many people do you know who hope to ‘someday’ go travel the world? When they have enough money, enough time, the kids are gone, etc…. This hope of someday, of a better time, keeps them from getting very far from home today.

Frankly, hope is a device we use to avoid looking at a the reality of a situation.

For example: In sales there are those who submit a great proposal with a good price and hope they are selected. Then there is the person who is playing golf with the decision maker and s/he is not hoping, s/he is doing.

The people hoping believe that this is unfair, maybe even immoral. They have beliefs that kept them from stalking the buyer until ‘accidentally bumping into them’ to get the golf date. They have beliefs about going over peoples heads, asking for favors, asking for personal information, so on and so on….

Rope is made up of many smaller strands woven or twisted together. As we start to look at those things that bind us and unravel our rope of hope we find the same thing.

Each strand itself doesn't have a great hold on us, but together they are strong.

In the travel example above, there are uncountable trivial reasons for not going. Who will watch the dog? I’ll miss the dog. I can’t be away from fill in the blank. I need to save my vacation. What will so and so think? On and on … Each one is trivial on its own merit, but daunting when all held together. A fear, generally of losing something, is always at the root of these thoughts, but that is another conversation.

There is another side of hope which is the thread that keeps us attached when we are struggling.

Visually we illustrate this as a frayed rope with a last strand. Verbally it is expressed as ‘we are at the end of our rope’. Regardless of imagery or expression, having something to cling to is a critical aspect of the human part of being. The idea of letting go is too much.

The whole of Zen practice is to learn to let go. Ultimately to that last thread.

In my view, hope is an immature version of faith. Not ‘faith in’ something or another, but just faith. With a more mature faith comes the capacity to take whatever is happening or next as workable. Maybe not pleasurable, but workable.

May your life go well