What if, at the end of our lives, we die having watched destruction and not been able to create any good effect?
What, really, is available to us if we can’t save the world? What do we fund our work for? Where do we gain energy if we don’t believe that we’re going to be successful? How can we do our work without hope that we will succeed?
There’s something very interesting to understand about hope. That is, that hope and fear are one. Any time we’re hopeful, we don’t know it necessarily, but we’re bringing in fear. Because fear is the constant, unavoidable companion of hope. What this simply means is that I hope for a certain outcome and I’m afraid I won’t get it. I hope for a certain result and I’m fearful it won’t happen. This is the way that hope and fear are wedded together. There is a place called, “beyond hope and fear.” It is to be free from hope, so that we are free from fear.
So, it might be that the road to fearlessness is only found by giving up hope. By giving up outcomes, by giving up goals.
I find this to be an intolerable posture, by the way. If we don’t have hope, where will we find our motivation? If we don’t have hope, who will save the world? If we go down in despair – which seems to be the alternative to hope in many peoples’ imaginations, who will save the world?
What if your work achieves nothing? Thomas Merton, a great writer and contemplative in the Catholic tradition, said, “Do not depend on the hope of results. You may have to face the fact that your work will be apparently worthless and even achieve no result at all, if not, perhaps, results opposite to what you expect.
“As you get used to this idea of your work achieving nothing, you start more and more to concentrate not on the results but on the value, the rightness, the truth of the work itself. And there, too, a great deal has to be gone through, as, gradually, you struggle less and less for an idea and more and more for specific people. The range tends to narrow down, but it gets much more real. In the end, it is the reality of personal relationships that saves everything.”
What would it feel like to find our fearlessness with each other? For those relationships to be enough? For us to feel we would have made a significant contribution, and led a good life, just because we cared for, loved, consoled a few people? This is quite a frightening thought; to shift from saving the world to loving a few people?
– Margaret Wheatley