T. S. Eliot gave us these lines:
I said to my soul, be still and wait without hope
For hope would be hope for the wrong thing; wait without love
For love would be love of the wrong thing;
there is yet faith But the faith and the love and the hope are all in the waiting.
Wait without thought, for you are not ready for thought:
So the darkness shall be the light, and the stillness the dancing.
This sounds like an invitation to mindfulness, an invitation to realize the radical transformation that comes from setting aside preconceived ideas, such as those bound up by hope. We may not be ready for thought unless we’ve trained our minds in mindfulness. Our love may be tainted by selfish attachment.
First order of business—be still. Ahhh. What a relief, just the possibility of getting to stillness, even if for a moment. And now, “wait without hope.” Isn’t that pessimistic? I venture to say, no, it is not pessimistic. Optimism is good, hope can get in the way.
In contradistinction to most of my friends who are rooting for the Giants, I “hope” the Patriots win the Super Bowl tomorrow, but of course this is an idle emotion. It informs me subjectively, but has no vector in the world. Wouldn’t it be better to acknowledge my desire, to understand its context, and to wait without hope? Yes, I think so. Then I can watch the spectacle unfold with pleasure and equanimity. If I cling to hope, I make myself vulnerable to disappointment, anger, and frustration.
The weekend of 17-19 February, we will explore questions raised by Eliot and other great thinkers, ones that the Buddha has ventured to answer. We’ll use poems like this one, metaphors, and science to move towards a direct, experiential understanding of what it means to live an awakened life. Continuing education credits (12) are available. You can register for the course here.