hoping our way into the future

two brown hands holding a heart-shaped stone carved with the word 'Hope'

cw: apocalypse


I’m making dinner today — it’s my turn — so I am hoping to finish writing this before it’s time to start meal prep.

Two things happened today to bring this theme to my mind. Or rather, I encountered two things while on Twitter that brought this theme to my mind because they shed light on something I have been struggling with for a while now: hope is a discipline, which I first heard from Mariame Kaba.

hope is a discipline

This is an assumption I’m making, but I am guessing that most of you have some kind of pain in your personal history. And as people with pain that shaped us, it is wretchedly difficult to open up to the idea that there is hope at all.

I think that hope is the hardest of the things I’ve been working to learn, probably because it’s interwoven with other things that are true in me.

I find it difficult to love the wholeness of myself. Decades of trying to be the right shape for other people has meant that I’m still a child wearing adult trauma, now that I can finally look at myself with compassion and see my broken pieces and also my hope for wholeness.

There is a part of me that believes that the world will end and nothing will come afterward. A part of me that wants to — tries to — give in to despair. Daily, I take in the pieces of other peoples’ pain, their sorrow, their anger, their faltering will to survive. And I mirror that pain in myself, because I am a person that would rather take the knife into my own body than to let it bury itself in anyone else. This makes me remarkably self-focused, and is part of why it is hard for me to learn how to have the feeling of hope and to practice the discipline of hope.

And yet, I do hope, even when I don’t recognize that I’m doing it. I watched a short video today about two tigers who were rescued from years of being trapped without the feeling of grass under their paws or the shade of trees or the freedom to run as fast and as far as they want, and I cried and cried because it thrummed in me like the vibration of a bass chord played through an amplifier. I can relate to the feeling of being trapped inside a tiny cruel imitation world, not able to imagine what freedom might be like.

Then I read a web comic, about what could happen after the apocalypse, posted in a tweet thread by its writer-creator, and again the way that hope is possible hit me right in the gut.

(if you click on the tweet below, it should take you to the whole thread so that you can read it yourself)

Lots of crying for me today, which I suppose is appropriate given that the moon is full today and I often lose control over my shit in some way on the full moon.

hoping and hoping into the future

Because I see patterns in things, I tend to view the world through a lens that sorts events into groups, and I can easily lose sight of any individual thing. I see a planet at war — people against people, the natural world erupting into chaos that kills us and itself — and I despair for us. I see apocalypse like fire on the horizon, growing and burning ever closer. I do not see escape, or reasons to expect any kind of salvation for what we have done to ourselves.

But.

What if that isn’t how the world ends? What if the world — what if we — continue on despite ourselves, and learn to hope again? What if we hope so fully that our actions are hope?

What if hope is the only way we can make it at all? That the hope of even one single person is the catalyst, the tiniest grain of sand, the feather on the scale, that swings the arc of the universe toward life rather than eternal death. That hope in action is a force that builds and grows and draws us together. That the way to change the future is simply to learn how to hope and to decide to hope as often as possible.

It’s like the great stories, Mr. Frodo, the ones that really mattered. Full of darkness and danger they were, and sometimes you didn’t want to know the end because how could the end be happy? How could the world go back to the way it was when so much bad has happened? But in the end, it’s only a passing thing this shadow, even darkness must pass. A new day will come, and when the sun shines, it’ll shine out the clearer. I know now folks in those stories had lots of chances of turning back, only they didn’t. They kept going because they were holding on to something. That there’s some good in this world, Mr. Frodo, and it’s worth fighting for.

Samwise Gamgee

choose to hope

I am begging you, tears in my eyes, to try and hope. Try to remember what hope feels like. Try to believe that hope matters, even while the future is uncertain.

I want to be there with you when the fires have died down and the flooding is done and the shape of the planet has changed again, and what remains is just us, just each other, willing to hope because it’s hope that saved us. Because hope will outlive us, if we let it.

featured image is a photo by Ronak Valobobhai on Unsplash

Nix Kelley
Co-parent to multiple kids. Writer. Death doula. Member of the Order of the Good Death. Seeker on the Path of Light. Queer, non-binary, & trans.

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