Hope 3

Embracing reality just as it is doesn’t mean we don’t work for change. Indeed, as we practice loving what is, we become more engaged with that reality in ways that can lead to our own and our world’s transformation. You might think that if I love what is, then I’ll be complacent. The opposite is true. Complacency is a symptom of disengagement, and love pulls us toward engagement.

Millions March NYC protesting police violence on Sat Dec 13
(Kena Betancur/Getty Images)
Embracing reality awakens compassion. Those areas where we don’t fully accept exactly what is -- either through clinging to something we see as possibly slipping away or through aversion to something we see possibly coming we don’t want -- are called attachments. Attachments are our retreats from reality, and embracing reality naturally entails a compassionate response.

To illustrate this, let me ask you to recall a time when you weren’t compassionate -- a time when you missed an opportunity to be kind and caring. Ask yourself, why did that happen? Bringing compassion and understanding to yourself, look at what was going on in you that at that moment blocked your compassion.

What I think you’ll find, if you examine that, is that some kind of attachment was at work: something you had you were afraid of losing, something you didn’t want you were afraid of getting. Maybe you simply thought you didn’t have time -- which is a way of saying you were attached to your pre-existing plan for how your time was about to be spent.

We never let go entirely of our attachments. At best, we learn to hold them more lightly. When we do that -- when we loosen-up, a bit, the vice-like grip we habitually have on our attachments -- we are more open to the inexorable yet unpredictable flow of change: things passing from us and new things arising. We more readily adapt to whatever circumstances bring. And we’re more ready to respond in compassion -- because we aren’t clinging so hard to any reason not to. When you love what is, you’re more ready to care for it -- while at the same time more flexible about what the outcome of your caring might look like.

If working for change means having a very specific, detailed picture of what you want, then that’s not loving what is – it’s rejecting what is in favor of this other thing that you want in place of reality. Working for change doesn’t have to be that kind of attachment to a certain outcome. Working for change might instead be an open engagement that isn’t sure exactly what the outcome will be but works creatively with the situation to uncover possibly-surprising ways that needs can be better met. That kind of transformative engagement is the manifestation of loving what is.

Let’s call it closed hope when it’s an attachment to a specific outcome, when there’s demand energy, when center-stage is occupied by upset, blame, and judgment, about reality as it is. Closed hope is a desire for change without accepting what is.

Call it open hope when it’s open-ended, reality-affirming, creatively transformative engagement for change that better meets needs without pre-commitments to any particular strategy for how that should happen. Open hope is engagement for change while at the same time letting go of attachment to results and fully embracing, loving, things just as they are. If you can imagine such engagement -- work and commitment yet without desires, motivated ultimately by the impulse not to make things different but to express your true self in the world, trusting that simply manifesting your authentic caring self will be transformative in unpredictable ways beyond your control -- then you have imagined open hope.

Walking the path of open hope for our society, open hope for justice, sometimes means walking with others whose hopes are more closed.

For example.

On Sat Dec 13, I was at the Millions March NYC in protest of police brutality – along with, the New York Times reported (CLICK HERE), about 25,000 others, including (the New York Times did not report), a couple dozen or so Unitarian Universalists, many of us in our yellow "Standing on the Side of Love" shirts. Myself and four others from Community Unitarian Church marched. I think I understand why some UUs might have wanted no part of it: the predominant mood was demand, blame, judgment, nonacceptance. For me, though, loving what is – this dear planet and all its beautiful people trying so hard in such diverse ways to bring flourishing to their lives – called me to care for their well-being in this way: to stand, without blaming, in solidarity with the oppressed, though they, in their oppression, do cast angry blame; to stand for understanding and accountability without having a demand for a specific strategy or outcome; to stand engaged and ready to engage with an open-ended process of healing, connection, and care; to stand for reconciliation in the midst of the injured who, for now, think only of retribution. I stand with that anger because it is a phase, it will ultimately transcend itself, but right now the force of its energy is needed.

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This is part 3 of 4 of "Hope"
Next: Part 4
Previous: Part 2
Beginning:Part 1 (No Hope?)

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