A hope note
Our capacity for hope, like growing African violets or reading Greek or riding a horse or saying ‘I love you’ or living within our means or diapering a baby or playing chess or being assertive, is ‘ thank God ‘ cultivatable. In ‘Coal Miner’s Daughter,’ when Loretta Lynn’s husband, Mooney, gives her a guitar, she objects: ‘I don’t know how to play this.’ Mooney insists: ‘Well, no one knows before they learn.’
Gloom-and-doom people sometimes do learn to become life-affirming people; desperate people sometimes grow hope. Ebenezer Scrooges sometimes morph into philanthropists; Chuck Colsons sometimes transform into true believers. The good news is that where there’s life ‘ it’s a clich’, but true ‘ there is hope. The better news is that the capacity for hopefulness, like Loretta Lynn’s capacity for playing guitar, can be acquired. ‘No one knows before they learn.’
Do you have a grand vision for yourself? Maybe it’s learning, like Loretta Lynn, to play the guitar. Or you may aspire to be more hospitable, or cheerful, or content, or playful, or generous. Go ahead ‘ build a big ol’ castle in the air. Boldly construct a vision of your ideal self.
It might help to fantasize, as Ebenezer Scrooge was led to do by ‘The Ghost of Christmas Yet to Come.’ Fantasize yourself in the cemetery some distant day, on your knees, using your forefinger to trace over the engravings on your tombstone. Imagine an epitaph etched in that tombstone that sums up in a few words your best behavior from this moment on.
Do you feel unsure that you can get there from here? Don’t fret, and don’t feel alone. Thoreau would advise you: ‘If you have built castles in the air, your work need not be lost; that is where they should be. Now put the foundations under them.’ Mooney would remind you: ‘Well, no one knows before they learn.’