Hope arouses, as nothing else can arouse, a passion for the possible.
-William Sloane Coffin
I went for a walk last week. A walk that took me up through the Gold Coast hinterland into Lamington National Park shortly after it had rained. It was on this walk that I learned a couple of things about myself. The first I learned with my runners on near the beginning of the hike.
I was strutting along the beaten soil path, my feet sliding against wet gravel and earth, when, marching along, I looked up and noticed the forest canopy with its shades of wet green leaves sparkling in the sun. I began to appreciate how pretty the foliage looks after a heavy rain. Then I realised that I was going to trip if I didn’t watch where I was going so I began marching again …crunch …crunch …crunch …left …right…left…right…and, turning a corner, I was caught for a second time by the awe-inspiring character of the bush surrounding me. The valley below stretched deep into the contours of the earth, making the trees look bite-size. I began to wonder, if a tree looked so small, what I would I look like? And then I tripped over a root, as surely as I promised myself I would. So back to the marching I went …left …right …left …right …crunch…crunch…crunch…For a third time I looked up, more as reflex than anything else. A goanna was sticking its tongue out at me, tasting the air and taunting me, almost as if to say, “you idiot, you can’t walk and keep your head up at the same time.” And at this point I stopped. I had been walking for nearly ten minutes and had hardly allowed myself to take in the natural beauty around me. I had been so focused on getting to the end of the hike that I had forgotten to appreciate the journey of getting there; the real reason I had taken the time to go for a walk in the first place. So I slowed down, in my step, in my breathing and in my thoughts, and it was then that I learned the first lesson of the day; my shoes are not anywhere near as good to look at as my surroundings.
In continuing along this path of introspection and self-understanding, I persisted to scrape and crunch along, yet more slowly now. And the slowness began to heighten my awareness of what was around me. Currawongs were calling to each other in minor keys, a small river was flowing in the valley below, and cicadas were trying to attract a mate with their all but romantic buzz. And I felt rude; rude because my footfall was interrupting the harmonious chorus of natural sound around me and the intrusion of the sole of my foot was entirely responsible. So I slowed my steps even further, experimenting with different weight distributions on the balls of my feet so as to create the least sound possible. My gate, which had started as something similar to a military march, became a semi-tantric meditation. I valued each step, trying to appreciate its impact every time I was bold enough to take to move.
After keeping this up for another ten minutes I became aware that my reflexes were taking the better of me in much the same way they had responded to the goanna. Every time a bird chirped or an insect picked up a new tune, my heart leapt. Not with fear or angst, but with excitement and a lust to hear how this new voice would contribute to the symphony. I began to notice smaller things along the path; spiders running on their webs; ants carrying leaves far larger than their bodies; abandoned snail shells that had been left by their previous occupants. Half-an-hour of practice like this led me to start picking up small rocks to see what was under them, poking my head into hollow trees and gently sifting through leaves to see what I might find. And in doing this, I had forgotten my need to march to the end of the hike, and remembered how to appreciate the journey of getting there; every time something changed a new thrill was born. And it was then that I learned the second lesson on my hike, or perhaps not so much a lesson but something about myself; every time my heart leapt at these kinds of changes, I was looking for something; hoping that this change would inspire me in a new way. On a greater level, however, I learned that every time I lifted up a rock or picked up a leaf, I was actually looking for hope. I had made the journey from being an insentient hiker, to one who valued this bush and I was valuing its life by finding hope in the life that existed there.
Now I don’t mean to suggest that I am a depressed individual, void of hope and inspiration in life. This is one of the last ways I would characterise myself. What I became aware of though, was that I found inspiration from seeing how life existed on my walk that day. Every time I saw or heard something new, it built my euphoria, driving my lust for life to the next level. And I became addicted to this. Each time I found something new it reminded me that there were thousands of things I had yet to be exposed to in life and the adventure inherent in that thought gave me hope and inspiration for the next new thing.
More than anything what I learned on that walk was that we look for hope in many different places in life. As humans we thrive off of new things and we need hope to find those new things. Hope isn’t something that the frail and depressed require, but something that we all need at some level. Whether it’s hope for a good career, hope for successful relationships, hope for love or hope for anything else, we are all looking for it in one walk of life or another.
Challenge: On an average day, try to become aware of where you look for hope. Whether you’re inspired by friends, assignments, pieces of news or your own thoughts, write to us and let us know what gives you hope.
~ Julian Jantos