Each Christmas and every birthday, we receive gifts. Gifts in the form of toys or games or clothes or jewelry; or maybe a new car or bike. It’s traditional and fun.
Fun and nice as they are, these things don’t keep us going into the new year. These gifts — items and space-fillers — aren’t what motivates us or brings joy into our lives.
It is what we cannot touch that brings us joy and meaning. Love and shared time with family and friends is what sustains us, motivates us to keep moving forward.
In short, it is hope. Hope sustains us, imbues our lives with purpose and meaning.
Hope for love and lasting relationships, hope for fulfillment of potential and goals, hope for something meaningful to strive for and work towards. The gifts, goods, or even goals in themself aren’t what brings meaning into our lives. These are consequences of a root — the root itself being hope.
In his book, Have a Little Faith, Mitch Albom said he “fell in love with hope.”
That’s a funny thing to say, isn’t it? Hope isn’t tangible. It exists only in abstract and in mental conception. Hope cannot be grasped or touched. Yet Albom identifies this as the object of his greatest affection. Why? How can this be the case?
Hope is inherently a future-oriented notion. A concept aimed at something in particular — an item worthy of aiming for. Hope is what transpires when we aim at something meaningful — aspirations, romance, personal goals, security.
Hope can also take the form of confidence in potential. It’s the assurance that the future holds something of value, something worth waiting for and aiming toward.
Despite all these things that hope provides, hope cannot be touched or held. Hope holds no place in reality. It exists in dreams, potential, and aspiration.
How is it that we place so much meaning in something closer to metaphysical than not?
The Buddha said himself,
It is better to travel well than to arrive.
Hope supplies the journey before the destination. Hope is what ensures our journey remains motivated, happy, and directed. These take salience over arriving safely and successfully.
We place so much meaning in the abstract because it is what propels us to the future and keeps us warm at night. Hope is what helps us sleep through storms and hold on to what’s meaningful in times of sorrow.
We all aim to have hope, seek hope, and like Mitch Albom, love hope.