I love this question. There are just so many different ways to approach the question of hope. And it is especially poignant for the particular age range that you are targeting this toward.
It feels to me like hope is as fundamental to human experience as suffering. Because at its very core, hope is simply a promise that eventually, somehow things will get better .
And this hope I think is in some way actually coded into the universe itself. Because on the whole, things do get better. At every moment we inherent the painful karmas from the previous moment, and at every moment we have that creative opportunity for something new, something better, to emerge.
In a way, “hope” can be seen something like a faith in Eros — a faith that our physical, emotional, or mental states/conditions will shift from “more broken” to “more whole”. And on the whole, things do tend to get more whole over time. Progress exists, despite the protests of postmodern historians and party poopers.
If we hold hope in tension with acceptance of suffering, we can see how things like fear, pain, anguish, and despair arise whenever hope cannot be found. Because let’s face it — life is suffering. Existence hurts, and the universe never stops trying to find new ways to kill us.
And I think this polarity between hope and acceptance gets integrated in very different ways from one stage to the next — and all of these integrations can remain active within us even after we’ve passed through that stage.
You can ask can have magical sources of hope, like some supernatural power intervening and altering reality for us.
You can have mythic sources of hope, faith in a particular code or creed or community.
You can rational sources of hope, maybe faith in reason and scientific progress and rational self-interest.
You can have pluralistic sources of hope, a faith in collaboration and empathy and common humanity.
And you can have integral sources of hope — a faith in wholeness, a faith in Eros and evolutionary unfolding, a faith in the transcendent currents of awakening, a faith in our own capacity to meet the moment and transcend our karmas and bring something new into the universe.
At every stage our hope becomes bigger, more integrated, and more internalized. We no longer see hope as wish fulfillment for something “out there” to spontaneously change, but instead something we need to actively participate with, from the inside out. In this sense, hope really is the engine of Eros, the drive to increasing wholeness. It’s what compels people to create change, to improve their lives, to fight for a better world. It’s how we get things like freedom and justice and civil rights in the first place. And it’s what every generation requires in order to fight to keep these things in place.
And when we begin to understand that we ourselves are able to fulfill the hopes and reduce the suffering for other people, that becomes a tremendous source of meaning. In this sense, a deeply active and engaged “hope” lies at the very center of the bodhisattva vow itself.
Such a rich topic to explore with you all!