Get Your Hopes Up
I find my thoughts on the subject of hope today. Hope is one of those things I feel I don't talk about enough. It's in the Creed, in passing, and I hope we all feel that draw when we read or say the Creed. Our Doctrine calls on us to be "providers and beacons of hope," so it's on me to examine whether and how I am doing that, giving hope the attention it deserves.
Hope is an expectation of good, something a little more than a desire for a certain thing to happen. It's wanting something to be, or become, and being confident in the possibility that it will. Hope generates in us a positive outlook; it raises our spirits.
In the Star Wars fiction that inspires us, hope has been both a central theme and a core value from the very beginning. We're told that the whole scrappy Rebellion, going up against the overwhelming might of a galactic empire, is "built on hope." You could argue that Luke begins his hero's journey when he hears a princess call a mad old space wizard "my only hope." It's the last word spoken in Rogue One; it's in the title of the first film.
But how are we treating hope in our everyday lives?
I sometimes notice people treating hope as they would an attachment. We tell each other, "Don't get your hopes up." Maybe we feel the need to help another manage expectation, or avoid disappointment. Maybe we're wary of hope because we've had our hopes dashed. Or maybe we set our hopes on a particular outcome, without dealing with that gnawing fear of losing something that is the primary manifestation of an unhealthy attachment (which the astute will recognize as being located at the intersection of Anakin Boulevard and Vader Avenue).
Whatever our reason for using that phrase, though, why would we ever discourage hope?
Around here, we sometimes quote Qui-Gon: "Your focus determines your reality." One of the ways I hear that is as an admonition to maintain a positive outlook, that Jedi confidence that things are working out just as they are meant to do. Perhaps you believe that Qui-Gon is reminding us that the universe will respond to whatever we envision.
Certainly hope must be wielded in a responsible manner; you can't rely on blind faith in the universe to keep you from unpleasant consequences of poor choices. I've heard it said that “hope is not a strategy,” and that's true: real life is full of goals and deadlines, and we sometimes have to come up with realistic, specific plans for how we're going to handle life on its own terms. And in a given situation, maybe the only way to manage expectation in a compassionate way is to be coldly realistic.
We don't have a Maxim of Hope. We have a Maxim of Faith that instructs us "[t]o trust in the ways of the Force." But another Maxim tells us, "A Jedi learns to let go of their fears through their faith in the Force." That's where I see the distinction between hope as an expectation and hope as an attachment; that's where I see the opportunity to rid yourself of that fear of some kind of loss when the outcome is uncertain. Our expectations can be specific and fact-specific, but we can remain flexible enough to cope with any outcome. But let's say an undesirable outcome does occur: things don't go the way you want them to, but will your disappointment really be any greater if you save yourself some stress over what might happen in an uncertain future?
I see one of my responsibilities as a Jedi to remind people that they are going to make it, that there is always a chance to succeed. It's part of my job to direct your attention to the hero's journey, the brighter tomorrow, the Hollywood ending. I should never view that as a burden, and I hope I haven't given you the impression that I do, because I believe that this is what we are called to do: for ourselves, for our circles and tribes, for people we've never met and never will. "Jedi believe . . . [i]n the positive influence of spiritual growth and awareness on society." Or as Teaching 10 puts it, "Each action performed, no matter the scale, influences the world."
Rebellions are built on hope.
Get your hopes up.