Like all other humans, I grew up with the nearly constant companion that we call “Hope.”

I had the usual childhood self-centered hopes for things, and although I didn’t know it at the time, I also hoped to be loved and supported, trusted, treated well. In my teens, I developed the more mature, altruistic hopes for a better world that often accompany the transition into young adulthood. And then, in my 20s, I started hoping to become spiritually enlightened, earnestly pursuing this idea for the next several decades, in a variety of ways.

In hindsight, I see now that I didn’t realize that this impulse – to become enlightened – was motivated by a desire to be free from all the worries that weighed on me, the ones that birthed hope. I hoped for many things, but felt that most, if not all, would likely not come to pass: a long, healthy life and an easy or swift and painless death; enough money to live comfortably; a better, brighter future for myself and my loved ones, and for all people; and, of course, the big hope we all share – world peace – a life of ease for all of the Earth’s inhabitants.

I realize now that hope is an empty promise. This moment lacks nothing, despite all outward appearances, and there is no such thing as the future (other than as a thought). Knowing this, what is there to hope for?

But our global situation – life on Earth – seems to be filled with more than enough fuel for a lifetime (and the proverbial lifeline) of hope, and so, paradoxically, I am free to continue to hope for freedom from pain and suffering for all. The difference is that hope now springs from the eternal knowing that all is well.