Updated: Aug 2, 2020
"Hope" is a concept that's been rattling around in my mind lately. It started one morning a couple of months ago during meditation when the quote "Hope is a beggar" popped into my mind out of nowhere. It's from Jim Carrey's beautiful 2014 commencement speech at Maharishi University of Management. I hadn't watched it in years, but suddenly, there his voice was in my mind, trying to tell me something. I had to watch the speech again. (It's still as genius as it ever was.)
In case you don't have 26 minutes to watch the speech yourself, here's the expanded quote I was looking for, the closing few minutes of the speech:
"As far as I can tell, it's just about letting the universe know what you want and working toward it, while letting go of how it comes to pass. Your job is not to figure out how it's going to happen for you, but to open the door in your head, and when the door opens in real life, just walk through it. And don't worry if you miss your cue, because there's always doors opening. They keep opening!
And when I say life doesn't happen TO you, it happens FOR you, I really don't know if that's true. I'm just making a conscious choice to perceive challenges as something beneficial so I can deal with them in the most productive way. You'll come up with your own style. That's part of the fun!
Oh, and while you're at it, why not take a chance on faith as well? Take a chance on faith. Not religion, but faith. Not hope, but faith. I don't believe in hope. Hope is a beggar. Hope walks through the fire and faith leaps over it.
You are ready and able to do beautiful things in this world, and after you walk through those doors today, you will only ever have two choices: love or fear. Choose love, and don't ever let fear turn you against your playful heart."
Recently, I was doing some reading on Pema Chödrön, and there that concept was again:
"In Tibetan there’s an interesting word: ye tang che. The ye part means ‘totally, completely,’ and the rest of it means ‘exhausted.’ Altogether, ye tang che means totally tired out. We might say ‘totally fed up.’ It describes the experience of complete hopelessness, of completely giving up hope. This is an important point. This is the beginning of the beginning. Without giving up hope – that there is somewhere better to be, that there is someone better to be, we will never relax with where we are or who we are. It expresses the renunciation that’s essential for the spiritual path.” (From When Things Fall Apart, page 38)
As humans, we're wired to want things. And, as psychiatrist Neel Burton MD writes,
"Hopelessness is both a cause and a symptom of depression, and, within the context of depression, a strong predictor of suicide. 'What do you hope for out of life?' is one of my most important questions as a psychiatrist, and if my patient replies 'nothing' I have to take that very seriously.
However, as he also writes:
"Hope is a desire for something combined with an anticipation of it happening, it is the anticipation of something desired. To hope for something is to make a claim about something’s significance to us, and so to make a claim about ourselves.
One opposite of hope is fear, which is the desire for something not to happen combined with an anticipation of it happening. Inherent in every hope is a fear, and in every fear a hope."
In our spiritual quest to transcend fear, is it therefore necessary to give up hope as well? To reach the state of ye tang che as Chödrön writes, or simply to fully embrace faith as Carrey suggests? If so, how do we best accomplish this?
On this topic, I don't have the answer. I have only the question. But, life has a way of answering the questions that need answering, and perhaps I could take a chance on faith that this one will be answered as well?