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Big Question: Is There Hope Without Gratitude?

by | Nov 22, 2020

Hope and gratitude are platitudes that are easy to dismiss as overused banalities. But in this week of giving thanks, and in this season where hope is once again trying to gain a toehold where it has recently found none, the two seem especially relevant.

In this week’s Big Question Forum we will explore these orientations in an attempt to uncover where and how they reside within us, often occluded by the anxiety of the moment and life’s petty urgencies, large and small.

These two platitudes are complementary to one another – for hope, as the aspiration of what we wish will unfold, is oriented toward the future; while gratitude is rooted in the present, or may be retrospective, as we look back on our life, career, accomplishments, etc.

Perhaps one way to think of hope is that it embodies the sense of gratitude we would like to feel in the future. The object of this year’s Thanksgiving hope will be the reflection of next year’s Thanksgiving gratitude.

Yet, as high-minded as they are, hope and gratitude can be uncomfortable bedfellows. In a subtle way, one form of hope can actually undermine gratitude. This version of hope, while aspiring for an improvement to current circumstances, in the process deprecates our condition in the present. 

But as it relates to our inner, psychic dynamic, is not hope essential? Is it not the foundation for our resilience, buoyancy, and whatever gumption we can muster as we face each new day?

Hope can be embodied in our aspirations, even in our pet projects – from gardening to basement constructions to writing memoirs. It can be the force behind our work for social justice or efforts to keep our family healthy and whole. 

And while gratitude may be the fruits of these hope-borne efforts, it can more profoundly be the realization of the blessings that have accrued unbidden in our lives – gifts freely and abundantly given by life and nature, if we but only notice. We may or may not infer that there is a giver underlying these gifts, but the bounty is as close as the next breath we take.

So as we reconstruct and re-orient our lives in this time of upheaval and inflection, let’s come together to discuss what anchors yet provides buoyancy in the present, and what orients our horizonal aspirations. 

This month’s Big Question Forum will be held Tuesday, Nov. 24th at 7:30 at this Zoom link: