Hope is a Verb - Mebby Miracle Chasers on 12/30/19
In the darkest days of our lives, in the darkest of winter, for as long as humans have registered emotions and named them, we have hoped. While the idea of hope can be used as a platitude, like when we say, "You gotta have hope!" offering an easy consolation to a suffering soul, hope also implies action, as in, "To hope." I think of Hope as a verb. In fact, I think hope is the energizing element that sustains the indomitable human spirit.
At this time of year, stories of human hope abound. One of my favorites is the story of the Maccabees and Hanukkah, the Jewish festival of lights. It is a compelling narrative, complete with a band of rebels who staged guerrilla warfare against Hellenized Jewish leaders, who had allowed the Temple in Jerusalem to be defiled. Judas Maccabeus was a particularly brilliant military leader and through surprise, cunning, and a little luck, he routed the armies that the evil Greek emperor, Antiochus, sent to crush the rebellion. It is at this point the miracle of the oil that lasted eight days took place. According to the Talmud, unadulterated and undefiled pure olive oil with the seal of the high priest was necessary to re-light the Temple Menorah, and the menorah was required to burn throughout the night, every night. The story goes that the heroes could only find one flask of pure oil, which was only enough to burn for one day. To replace it required an extensive process that lasted eight days. The miracle oil lasted just long enough to prepare the new undefiled oil.
Today, one candle is lit on the menorah for each night of Hanukkah, to commemorate the miracle, one light for every night the oil burned. The event is historical, though the miracle perhaps is not as well documented. I can imagine that as each night passed and more lights on the Temple Menorah were lit in the darkness, the hopes and joys of the Jewish people were also lit as the realization of the Macabeean victory set in. By the time all lights were burning, the brilliance of the miracle - that the Jews had regained their religious freedom in spite of great odds - would have been obvious to all. The Macabeean Jews had accomplished the improbable, their, "Hope beyond hope." The light in the hearts and souls of these Jewish people must have been visibly radiant.
You can find at least fourteen definitions of hope, if, as I did, you look the word up in an old-fashioned dictionary - the print kind. The root of hope is keu, the same root in which the word curve comes from. It means a change, like going a different way. In The Miracle Chase I share a poem in which I write about hope as if Hope were my friend. She runs ahead of me and shows me that the future is there, lying just ahead on a path I can't yet see, "just between the mountains." Hope kept me going in some pretty dark days that required a course correction. We all need a friend like that; we all need that kind of Hope.
Allan Hamilton, who is a doctor, shares this abut hope in his TED talk. "Hope is the combination of ability and power. Hope is the ability to see a future that's better than the present and it is the power to try to make it happen." It is powerful medicine. Study after study shows that there are better outcomes for health if one has hope. Dr. Hamilton feels no one should be able to take away another's hope, including doctors, no matter what the tests show, no matter how dire the circumstances may seem.
What I've learned about hope, is that it requires personal engagement. You aren't really flexing your hope muscles if you are passively waiting for something out there to happen. "To strive for, to wish, i.e. "to hope" is to want something to happen but it's more than that. It's believing something CAN happen. Young Greta Thunberg, whose campaigning on climate change has garnered international recognition, including being selected as the 2019 Person of the Year by Time Magazine, has said, "I don't want your hope. I don't want you to be hopeful, I want you to panic, and act as if the house was on fire." I hope she really means that we need more than hope to change course and go a different way, for we must have hope.
Martin Luther says that "Everything that is done in this world is done by hope." If this is true, then what kind of expectation should we have for ourselves and others around the action of hope? What is the connection between finding new ways to work for change and letting our own internal hope-light shine?
For if hope is a verb, surely, we are its nouns. There would be no Festival of the Lights without the Maccabees. We are the lights that mobilize hope. We need the fighters and we need the advocates and the activists who tell us hope is not enough, but we will not see change without hope.
Tonight, as I look out to the dark night on one of the longest nights of the year, I note the abundance of stars in the sky and the number of candles and bright lights in my home, helping me celebrate the season. May the lights of the season illuminate your path ahead, and as Katie, Joan and I did, may you find many miracles along the way that inspire you to hope.