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Just off the Port Bow—a place of uncertainty, adventure, and insight. Thank you for your ears, eyes and hearts. I hope to bring compassion, grace and beauty to your day.

Esperanza - Part Two

What did hope look like when I was a kid?

There were the normal things. Hoping for a good birthday or Christmas present. Hoping for the Braves or the Packers or the Blackhawks to win. Hoping that I would get picked early on for this or that game. Hoping for a good haul of Halloween candy.

When I first put the question, though, what comes to my mind are the bodily feelings associated with accomplishment. I did not think a lot about hope as a thing of the future. I did crave the feeling of maneuvering my body and racket to make a powerful and winning shot in tennis. It might have been a service return down the line, or a well aimed flat first serve. Whatever the effort it would be imprinted on my mind and body, and I would replay it endlessly. Over time I would visualize similar shots in anticipation of a future match, and replay that endlessly.

My anticipation, my efforts, my body, my control, my quiet exulting, and my capacity to do it again: these constituted my experience of hope; the desired NOT - YET of my youth.

This seems a stretch, and a stretching of hope's definition. Before I take on that legitimate challenge, let me expand the scope of my experience a bit more. I have a pretty comprehensive list of similar memories.

Running through the ravine in my indian moccasins; seeking speed and stealth.

Making coordinated moves in hockey, either the power moves of an offensive lineman, or the finessed moves of the penalty killer.

Pirouetting and plunging on the tree swing in a game of "whatever we called it" with Steve on the edge of the ravine at his house.

Running in and around the swingset while Ann, Chris or Tim were swinging.

Surfing the "waves" in our wooden canoe on the beach in Oostburg.

Blasting away at endless clay pigeon targets on the beach or in the woods in Oostburg.

Fielding baseballs in a game of Five Hundred.

In each and every one of these, the experience was the same. There was a bodily response which I anticipated, craved, enjoyed, endlessly replayed, and anticipated all over again. These describe the hopes and dreams of my childhood.

But are these really a description of hope? Aren't these just a collection of childhood experiences with long shelf lives?

Hope, taking both the Bible's view, and the common view, is that which we long for yet cannot at present see or feel. There is uncertainty in most of what we call hope. You don't know if what you hope for will actually come to pass. "I hope you have a good day!" is no guarantee that someone's day will be good. You wish it, anticipate it, and live into it as much as you can. None of this, however, will keep the Throg Necks Bridge traffic from backing up as you head into the city for an important meeting, nor keep your acid reflux under complete control.

Where does, "I hope for world peace!" fit into this discussion...or any other such universal aspiration? From a psychological standpoint I think it is the same as hoping for a good day. It is obviously not the same from an intellectual or moral standpoint. But, I am not sure that hope has its roots in the intellectual or moral. That may bear further discussion. Right now, let's stick with hoping for a good day.

Hope, in this sense, is a sort of wishful thinking which frames our daily forays into life. Little wonder that people with Eeyore type personalities stick out like sore thumbs. They have not bought into the lingua franca the rest of us depend upon.

In some circumstances or categories there is a measure of assurance to hope. From a faith perspective this is absolutely core for me. I believe that Jesus rose bodily from the dead. I'm willing to stake my life on it. That conviction is the backbone of my hopeful approach to God's Grace. I can't prove the resurrection, but it seems enough of a reasonable certainty to secure my hopefulness. Where reasonableness leaves off, faith takes over. God's Grace is not reasonable, nor is the resurrection. For that matter, God's Grace is neither just nor moral. Still, I have studied the resurrection of Jesus long enough and deeply enough to be able to commit my mind, my morals and my hopes to it without reservation.

It would be fair to say that I hope in nothing else. Everything else in and about life is uncertain.

So, how, then, does that childhood experience of physical anticipation, visualizing, and execution connect with hope?

For hope to sustain our interest there must be some payoff. The cynic philosophers trouble us deeply with their tireless pessimism. They hope in nothing. We counter their gloom with optimism born of experience. I imagined a great tennis shot, and mostly executed it. I visualized myself stick-checking an opponent on the hockey rink in good Gordie Howe style and sort of pulled it off. Perfection was never the goal. Living into the anticipated feeling, especially with the agency of my impressionable body was.

My hockey and tennis days are past, though, so where is that physical agency to make hope somehow palpable?

This is a stretch, but I wonder if living into Grace, into The Great Compassion, is not the palpable agency of hope in my life? As I bring compassion to myself through a practice of meditation I engage my whole body in the embrace of divine love. I visualize that embrace; both as is surrounds me, and as I, in turn, embrace others with compassion.

One of the exercises I use (and desire to use more) is to methodically bring compassion to myself, another close to me, a recognized but non-connected stranger, a complete stranger, and to the world at large (go for it!). Of the many spiritual exercises I have tried, this one seems to have the biggest payoff. My hopefulness (positive, realistic, open-eyed) is grounded in my body by this exercise, and the mindfulness which surrounds the exercise. Here is a realm of physical visualization which does not require a hockey rink, a tennis court, or a young nimble body to make good.

The hopefulness I nurtured as a young boy, now has a vehicle more appropriate to my age. I can still feel that perfect tennis shot, but harbor no illusions of executing it any time soon.

Compassion, the emotional, psychological, spiritual, intellectual, physical, meta-physical and mindful reality is constantly a present reality. Compassion is not an assurance of outcomes; no, it is not hopeful in that way. Because it is grounded in The Great Compassion, though, what I bring of this greater grace to every moment, every relationship, every circumstance and every dream is infinitely hopeful.

Hmmm. Let's let this simmer for a bit.


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Esperanza - Part Three

Esperanza - Part One