Success is as dangerous as failure.
Hope is as hollow as fear.
But but… I hear you saying in protest to these lines, the ideas of success and hope so ingrained into our collective psyches. Just hear me out, it’ll make more sense shortly!
We’re starting to get into variations on themes here in these chapters and this calls back to Chapter two’s No Judging! Here we have a different spin on the same principle, and one that may be a little more painful to look at.
I was watching Love and Other Drugs the other night, about a woman with early onset Parkinson’s. Some fella falls in love with her, starts dragging her around to no end of cutting edge experimental treatments until she finally gets pissed off and walks out; tired of living life in hospitals, she wants to get back to her actual life. The fella chases her down, asks: “Don’t you want to get better?” She answers: “Yes. Desperately. It’s not gonna happen.” This woman’s got the wisdom to live the life she’s got rather than wasting it on pursuing the life society says she should have.
Hope, just because it’s optimistic doesn’t make it any less a delusion. Hope is wishing for something other than what you have now; fear is worrying about what’s coming next. Flip sides of the same coin: not being in the moment, not allowing yourself to just be. Same with success and failure – both are views of where you think you should be, measuring yourself by some external stick of who you should be instead of seeing you are exactly where you need to be for your life, right now.
This chapter again reminds us to be in the moment and just let it slide into the next moment. The only constant is change, let it all unfold as it should. What you see presently as success may turn out to be what traps you in material attachment, while your current “failure” may just be the thing that sets you free.
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Now, before you think I (or Taoism in general) am some black turtleneck wearing, Niche quoting, nihilist pissing on the delusions of hope this needs a whole part two where I quote the last stanza of this chapter and explain what that means to me:
See the world as your self.
Have faith in the way things are.
Love the world as your self,
then you can care for all things.
Part of what happens when you can just drop the monkey mind and be in the moment is that sense of interconnectivity of all things, and in that space is love and peace and a quiet confidence in the way things are. That sort of everything-will-be-okay comfort no matter where you’re at.
I was at some environmental pray for the healing of the earth, give the planet some love sort of event a while back. I’d had a really rough day, but dragged myself anyway, to try and get out of my head and my own foul mood. Amid the thrumming drums and wafting scents of patchouli and armpit (yeah, you know the crowd) I fell into that in-the-moment space, sitting looking at the giant globe they’d hung from the ceiling I realized: “Healing of the Earth? Pffft! The planet is fine just as it is.” Beautifully perfect, this interconnected organism, living fully with all it’s variables, is exactly as it should be; there’s nothing to heal. And the awareness of that filled me with love for the planet and everyone and everything on it, suddenly patient and accepting and ok with it all, just as it was.
It’s so hard to describe, there really are no words, but in those moments when you can drop your ego-identity, stop clinging to the past or grasping for the future, in that moment is: peace, a sense of security that is real and eternal (because it isn’t connected to anything as transitory as “self”) and a simple faith in how things are and how they will unfold. And that is way more positive and optimistic than simply hoping for something to be other than what it is.
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And because this particular issue is my spiritual Achilles heel, I write about it a lot. If you want more thoughts to help you get your head around struggles of hope and failure and letting go, check out: resignation isn’t the same thing as acceptance and my thoughts on a Walt Witman poem, It is Enough. Lots of the posts around that time were dealing with these issues. Have a browse, I’d love your comments – even on the old posts!
4 thoughts on “ToV 13 – Hope as a Delusion”
Hmmm… I think we have quite different perspectives on this one.
Hope, in one of its contexts, is aspiration. Aspiring (hoping) for something in life… health, a better body, a life in a warmer climate where there aren’t 4 inches of snow in mid-October, a career path, a life partner… etc.) The flip-side you advocate is to be content with things as they are, without making every effort to make them as you want them to be. I am a firm believer in taking an active part in making my world the way I want it to be.
For example, I’ve had tinnitus for a year and a half, but I’m not accepting the conventional doctor’s opinions (and there were 3 of them!) that there is no cause and no cure. I’m working with a naturopath, who thinks we can fix it. It hasn’t worked so far, but I’m going to keep trying, and keep hoping, that it can be done. And if it doesn’t work with the naturopath, I will look more closely into energy healing, or other alternatives… I don’t think being content with my current tinnitus situation is an acceptable option. I hope I can change it. And the same holds true with many aspects of life.
I also hope that my new artwork, or my new book, (or whatever) is going to be well received when I release it to the public… In that context I’ve done all the planning, work and aspiring ahead of time, and am left with hope that it will go well.
And my context for measuring success or failure varies depending on the case at hand. With my upcoming art show, it will be measured by paintings sold, and dollars earned. And it has to be that way, because that’s how I make a living and pay for the current life, and aim toward the life we hope for. But my context of measuring the release of my last book is far different. I think there have been a tiny handful of sales, but I consider that book a huge success on other levels, because I think it is SO good, and such a testament to its subject. It, on its own, is a success, without greater expectations for it. But that’s because writing is a hobby for me, and I don’t rely on it to pay for itself. I am content with the book not selling well, but I still hope (and will still strive) for it to do better. So, different context = different measuring tape.
Hope is not a delusion. Hope is a tool of visualization. And if people don’t visualize and hope for what they want to have happen in their lives, then it never will. The universe gives back what we put out there.
Anyway – it’s a very long discussion, and I’ve run out of time… if there’s any hope of having dinner tonight, or of picking my beloved up from the airport in 20 minutes, I need to get my ass off this chair!
No not a different view Bob, there’s a nuance, but it’s crucial. One of the things I enjoy about you is your optimistic outlook; there’s nothing in your psyche says you can’t do whatever inspires you, so you just go out there and DO it.
It absolutely matters the lens you view the world through, as there’s good and bad in everything, nothing wrong with seeing the positive and the opening and the possibilities. In fact I think you risk more, try more, love more, when you’re hopeful of the outcomes–have faith in the way things are, as I quoted above.
The difference is hope AS a delusion, wanting things to be something other than what they are, when that hope just isn’t reasonable. This falls under the arguing with reality category, not the moving forward with your life one.
Taoists get a bad wrap for being passive, a lay down let the world trample all over you sort of folk. Not striving against your circumstances isn’t the same as giving up on them–resignation isn’t the same thing as acceptance. Goals are good, be they short-term (I’d really like a sandwich) to long term (I need to build a house), the point is being in the moment, whatever moment that is. If you want a sandwich, then, in this moment, get up off the couch and get yourself into the kitchen and start fixing! Sitting on the couch just wishing and hoping for a sandwich is a tad delusional.
The point is, being centred in yourself so whatever drive and goal you have is coming from an authentic place, not some ego driven idea of who you should be or how you should be. And being open to the possibilities: your drive may send you in what you think is one direction, only to find out you end up somewhere completely unexpected–that’s not a failure, it’s a delightful discovery!
As they say “Freedom is another word for having nothing else to lose”
HaHa, yes. A surpsising Toaist-esque concept. Though maybe more about having nothing you’re really attached to. There’re tales mocking the Taoist monks who have given up everything, but are really attached to their particular begging bowls. Emptiness is hard to find, even in your begging bowl.