From CoEvolution Magazine, No. 35, Fall 1982

Honest Hope

by Anne Herbert

I've been thinking about honest hope.

When we start to hope often we promise ourselves too much. If this one thing changes, we say, then it will all change - injustice disappear and no more lonely days, lonely nights, for anyone, for me.

The war ends, we/they get the vote, waking up each day stays too much the same, people find new ways to steal joy from each other.

Give up, hide, lost dreams turn to headaches because we refuse to cry.

If we started with honest hope, could we go farther do you think? What would honest hope be like? What can we honestly hope for?

Time. The lie often has to do with too soon. The hopeless (lazy) say, "It'll never happen," and the hopeful say, "Yes, it will, and soon" - turning to the angry "NOW!" Some of it does happen now, some never, but mostly it happens some odd kin of not soon enough. Not soon enough for the hoping workers to notice that it happened. They've given up or want so much more it doesn't matter.

Percentages of a single lifetime may be too short for honest hope to live in.

I don't know, words keep trying to fit together, honesty, hope, seeds, garden, forest. Who'd have guessed a seed would do that, get so large? To be alive you have to have the quick seeds, tomatoes to plant and eat, and corn. Easy to remember, if you remember to remember, that it was you that started this good thing happening not long ago. But also we need to plant the forests, and tend them, and leave space for them to tend themselves.

Assembly line time, we're trapped in making things fast that break fast and thinking that something has happened. That magic moment, ablaze in television lights, praised in jingle and slogan, when you stand in the store and buy the new doohickus, when you believe it's going to make the difference, that moment is short. Other moments, less famous, are longer. Kachunk, kachunk, I can't wait to leave, where's oblivion -- moments of making the shiny object go on a while, and there are many of them.

Then there's Christmas afternoon and it breaks. Even if it doesn't break, or not as soon as Christmas afternoon, it doesn't come close to touching your store hope. It doesn't change things. That short hope breaks in the many moments of the thing bored people made aging, but sometimes I don't notice because I'm on to other hopes, the next great purchase.

Tree time. Tree time takes longer. Trees, when they grow up, you don't think if you still like them. Your opinion is not the point. Tree time takes learning in a group of people like us where the rhythm of life has been determined (baba - boom, baba - boom) by tightening ten lugs a minute and on to the next car. If we're lucky we don't work there, but we measure our luck by how many things we can buy that were made there, and how fast we can buy them.

Pea pod time could teach you tree time. Fresh vegetables from the garden take longer than "this factory turns out twenty seven hundred gadgies an hour" and are part of a species long love affair with your mouth, take a while to happen and don't let you down. It's hard to remember how good they taste and then they wake up green pleasure cells you didn't know you had, the opposite of the third dent on the car and watching the dust settle on the electric knife sharpener.

Growing stuff with curves might match time more than building stuff with angles.

Honest hope and true time.

Real, slow-growing, long-lasting, hard-standing changes, like trees, never come up and pat you on the head and say, "You did it, kid, you made me possible, and you're terrific and I'm grateful as hell."

Because: 1) you might be dead by the time they're big and tall and you'll surely be different than when first hope caught you; 2) something that substantial you weren't the only variable that varied to make room for it; 3) trees and big changes aren't interested in personalities, even yours.

Honest hope. Plan to get your warm fuzzies someplace else. (What are friends for?) Hope that melts things and makes them new is as huggable as a flame. But warm at the right distance. The right uses of hope and the right distance. Get too close to the campfire, you get blisters, you get wounds. Stare at the flicker too long, you get crazy. Warm your butt and move it. Get to work.