For all who struggle for restorative, social justice, climate change, equality in our world, we find ourselves reflecting this time of the year on our past; we find we might spend a tad more time in meditation and contemplation, we think of how the new year can be different, we HOPE.
The struggle with HOPE was constant in the writings and talks of Merton; he saw this struggle in every human being, in the No Man, is an Island , Merton wrote, “How do the individual things we hope for, get in the way of true hope?” Merton talks about how ‘Hope’ deprives us of everything that is not God, (the cloud of unknowing) so that all things may serve their true purpose as a means to bring us to God. We see this in the aha moment of hope when he was at 4th and Walnut on 18 March 1958. Nine years later Merton explained to a group of seminarians the understanding of hope and his experience at 4th & Walnut, … he wrote:
“At the center of our being is a point of nothingness which is untouched by sin and by illusion, a point of pure truth, a point or spark which belongs entirely to God, which is never at our disposal, from which God disposes of our lives, which is inaccessible to the fantasies of our mind or the brutalities of our own will. This little point of nothingness and absolute poverty is the pure glory of God in us. It is so to speak His name written in us in our poverty, as our indigence, as our dependents, as our sonship. It is like a pure diamond, blazing with the invisible light of heaven. It is in everybody, and if we could see it we would see these billions of points of light coming together in the face and blaze of a sun that would make all the darkness and cruelty of life vanish completely… I have no program for this seeing. It is only given. But the gate of heaven is everywhere.”
Sometimes we need to realize that Expectations are not Hope but are merely premeditated resentments. Real hope is anchored not in anticipating a particular outcome, but in fact in letting go. Any desire you and I may have and hope for in our world and if it is really attached to a particular outcome is not spiritual hope of the highest degree.
Thus true hope is often born in the darkness of the unknown when goals and desires are utterly defeated.