Father Bob, a good friend and a great priest, said this in my kitchen. The two of us were eating cake and cranberry juice, talking about loss. We agreed that it sucks. Burying those we love, saying goodbye too soon, too soon, too soon, weathering all the hailstorms of grief that follow, trying to believe that life can still emerge into daylight, drumming up the faith and foolishness to uncurl from a ball and head out the damned creaking door for another day: it’s all too much. It’s madness, really.
And yet we do it, because there is no better option. Correction: There is no other option. Hope is all we have. Even when we’re exhausted and drooping from effort, even when we don’t know where we’re going or why we’re going there, we plod blindly on. And in this blind plodding we put our faith.
Father Bob and I were chewing on this and sucking down juice when I asked why any of us should believe that life might hand out anything but pain. We must be delusional, I said. Here we are, minding our business, tending our loved ones, laughing when we can — as R.E.M. put it, “lost in our little lives” — when fate or God or the cosmos or bum bloody mindless luck clobbers us broadside with tragedy. Why should anybody ever expect anything else?
“I guess,” he replied, “you just have to be stuck on hope. I guess that’s the answer.”
I was recalling this conversation today as I rode a surge of optimism on the first fresh morning of 2014. It was Cicero who observed, “Where there’s life, there’s hope,” but the reverse is true, too. Where there’s hope, there’s life. It’s a syllogism. Life=hope. Hope=life. If we just keep hoping, if we just keep plodding, the schlep of life will take care of itself. It might even clobber us broadside with joy.