Hope is playing, playing, and playing the piano. Playing and playing, and playing some more, until your mom’s your only motivator because you don’t want to play any longer. It’s being immersed in the world of music, being taught Beethoven and being relayed his story through endless conversations and a brutal autobiographical film to show to someone who’s barely a teenager. It’s going in and around The City to play countless gigs, and ending up in the audience when The Superstar comes.
You then contrive with a room mate to make a commotion, raise your hand, and profess your favorite song. It is coming up the stage, flooring him by playing in whatever key he wanted, and making him comfortable enough to “make him feel like Sinatra.” When you make him feel as if he really wanted to “get away” and “hop a flight to Miami Beach, Hollywood, or the Hudson River line,” you know you’ve cashed in all the effort of the past into the minutes that flew by as you tapped the black and white keys, drowned in applause, and surely had the moment of a lifetime.
Hope is the struggle of writing. It is going into the bathroom and seeing that the pail was overflowing. And when you strip yourself naked and reach for the dipper, preparing yourself for the lukewarm bath of the good morning, you realize that you haven’t “mixed” the water in the pail yet. Because you had poured a pot of hot water as you were just starting to fill the pail, the cold reality stands in stark opposition to the lukewarm expectation.
As with all trips to the shower, almost the whole act is a subconscious one. As with every trip, the shower is a time and place where ideas are conceived—where one contemplates existence, love and death, opportunities of a lifetime, history, plans, food, anything and everything under the sizzling umbrella of sunlight. Here is where you let your mind travel consciously, subconsciously, to and fro, here and there.
For someone who writes, like me, it is the venue of making up in my head a beautiful article, coming up with a sculpture of ideas and feelings, of plot twists and one-liners. Most of the time these ideas don’t really have any connection, and they accumulate themselves to a list, waiting to be revised, arranged, and connected. As if with the last drip of water leaving my feet on the bathroom floor, however, the list conveniently leaves my consciousness as I step out of the bathroom. Or if it stays put, it gets muddled, scrapped with, crumpled, and crushed, and it struggles under the weight of the time I take to walk half-naked from the bathroom to my closet. By the time it takes for me to walk from my closet to the computer, the list is as stripped away as ever, leaving with me the bare essentials and the marginal adjectives that, most of the time, don’t get their space in the essay I’ll end up writing. And with the few times I come out on top, wrestling with the temptation to reddit or scroll down my Facebook feed, I end up face-first with the battle against The Great White Screen. We do have our preferred opponents: For me that would be the Facebook Note, for some the Microsoft Word, the Evernote, or for some others the Paper.
Whatever it is, there is this “void” that needs to be filled—that’s waiting to be filled, in fact—by the myriad ideas we can muster. At the dusty old corner of our minds, we need to prove that we are better than monkeys pounding away at the proverbial typewriter, setting up a race to the last punctuation mark, hopefully way before the monkey has finished the complete works of Shakespeare.
Hope is staying in the midst of the storm. It’s dancing in the rain, sure, but also sitting on the pavement and wondering when it’ll stop and riding out, if you will, your loneliness. It is appreciating solitude, the way Rainer Maria Rilke and C.S. Lewis did.
It is playing, and playing, and playing like a little kid, running around, from point A to point B, and back to point A, because the displacement is not what’s most invaluable but the distance—not even the destination, but the journey. Running around is its reward.
* * *
What if a lot of life is set up? No, not “set up” as in “made [artificially],” but as “in preparation for.”
What if all the challenges, the countless hours of work, sweat, hardship, and bleeding heart all culminate in a millisecond? A glance, a wink, a smile? A glimmer in sight, as if the eyes smile in beauty? And the smile itself, as if everything else is washed away—as if everything else is nothing? Everything is fine.
At that apex of a moment, there are no contexts, no pasts, no frustrations, no commitments. Nothing. Just action. And reaction.
Everything is, and has been, worth it.
* * *
Hope is the darkness, the pitch black unknown of this void we are moving in. Hope is the struggle, the pain, the tears, and the crushed bits of the remains of our soul.
No, it is not a desire of a 10-minute performance with Billy Joel. It’s not struggling and blinding oneself from the reality of pain and darkness, sorrow and loneliness. The former is expectation, the latter blind optimism.
I see hope when something demands despair.
I see hope when it’s pitch black and we need to give up.
I see hope in solitude, when all the intersecting timelines of the people we interact with are contemplated, coupled with the assorted factors that would just push us to the brink. In a wish to just end it all.
Hope is persistence. Utter, stubborn persistence.
Hope is the set up.
Hope is the preparation.
Except we don’t know what we’re preparing for.
Marckie San Juan, 19, is studying philosophy at the Ateneo de Manila University.
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