Despair and Hope

From Krishnamurti’s Book COMMENTARIES ON LIVING 2

The little drum was beating out a gay rhythm and presently it was joined by a reed instrument; together they filled the air. The drum dominated, but it followed the reed. The latter would stop, but the little drum would go on sharp and clear, until it was again joined by the song of the reed. The dawn was still faraway and the birds were quiet but the music filled the silence. There was a wedding going on in the little village. During the previous evening there had been much gaiety; the songs and laughter had gone on late into the night, and now the parties were being awakened by music. presently the naked branches began to show against the pale sky; the stars were disappearing one by one, and the music had come to an end. There were the shouts and calling of children, and noisy quarrelling around the only water tap in the village. The sun was still below the horizon, but the day had begun.

To love is to experience all things, but to experience without love is to live in vain. Love is vulnerable, but to experience with out this vulnerability is to strengthen desire. Desire is not love and desire cannot hold love. Desire is soon spent and in its spending is sorrow. Desire cannot be stopped; the ending of desire by will, by any means that the mind can devise, leads to decay and misery. Only love can tame desire, and love is not of the mind. The mind as the observer must cease for love to be. Love is not a thing that can be planned and cultivated; it cannot be bought through sacrifice or through worship. There is no means to love. The search for a means must come to an end for love to be. The spontaneous shall know the beauty of love, but to pursue it ends freedom. To the free alone is there love, but freedom never directs, never holds. Love is its own eternity.

She spoke easily, and words came naturally to her, though still young, there was sadness about her; she smiled with distant remembrance and her smile was strained. She had been married but had no children, and her husband had recently died. It was not one of those arranged marriages, nor one of mutual desire. She did not want to use the word ‘love’, for it was in every book and on every tongue; but their relationship had been something extraordinary. From the day they were married till the day of his death, there had never been so much as a cross word or a gesture of impatience nor were they ever separated from each other, even for a day. A fusion had taken place between them, and everything else – children, money, work, society – had become of secondary importance. This fusion was not romantic sentimentalism or a thing imagined after his death, but it had been a reality from the from the very first. Their joy had not been of desire, but of something that went beyond and above the physical. Then suddenly, a couple of months ago, he was killed in an accident. The bus took a curve too fast, and that was that.

‘Now I am in despair; I have tried to commit suicide, but somehow I can’t. To forget, to be numb I have done everything short of throwing myself into the river, and I haven’t had a good night’s sleep these two months. I am in complete darkness; it is a crisis beyond my control which I cannot understand, and I am lost.’ She covered her face with her hands. Presently she continued: ‘It is not a despair that can be remedied or wiped away. With his death, all hope has come to an end. people have said I will forget and remarry, or do something else. Even if I could forget, the flame has gone out; it cannot be replaced, nor do I want to find a substitute for it. We live and die with hope but I have none. I have no hope, therefore I am not bitter; I am in despair and darkness, and I do not want light. My life is a living death, and I do not want anyone’s sympathy, love, or pity. I want to remain in my darkness, without feeling, without remembering.’

Is that why you have come, to be made more dull, to be confirmed in your despair? Is that what you want? If it is, then you will have what you desire. Desire is as pliable and as swift as the mind; it will adjust itself to anything, mould itself to any circumstances, build walls that will keep out light. Its very despair is its delight. Desire creates the image it will worship. If you desire to live in darkness, you will succeed. Is this why you have come, to be strengthened in your own desire?

‘A friend of mine told me about you, and I came impulsively. If I had stopped to think, probably I wouldn’t have come. I have always acted rather impulsively, and it has never led me into mischief. If you ask me why I have come, all I can say is that I don’t know. I suppose we all want some kind of hope; one cannot live in darkness forever.’

What is fused cannot be pulled apart; what is integrated cannot be destroyed; if the fusion is there, death cannot separate. Integration is not with another, but with and in oneself. The fusion of the different entities in oneself is completeness with the other; but completeness with the other is incompleteness in oneself. Fusion with the other is still incompleteness. The integrated entity is not made whole by another; because he is complete, there is completeness in all his relationships. What is incomplete cannot be made complete in relationship. It is illusion to think we are made complete by another.

‘I was made complete by him. I knew the beauty and the joy of it.’

But it has come to an end. There is always an ending to that which is incomplete. The fusion with the other is always breakable; it is always ceasing to be. Integration must begin within oneself, and only then is fusion indestructible. The way of integration is the process of negative thinking which is the highest comprehension. Are you seeking integration?

‘I don’t know what I am seeking, but I would like to understand hope, because hope seems to play an important part in our life. When he was alive, I never thought of the future, I never thought of hope or happiness; tomorrow did not exist as far as I was concerned. I just lived, without a care.’

Because you were happy. But now unhappiness, discontent, is creating the future, the hope – or its opposite, despair and hopelessness. It is strange, is it not? When one is happy, time is nonexistent, yesterday and tomorrow are wholly absent; one has no thought for the past or the future. But unhappiness makes for hope and despair.

‘We are born with hope and we take it with us to death.’

Yes, that is just what we do; or rather, we are born in misery, and hope takes us to death. What do you mean by hope?

‘Hope is tomorrow, the future, the longing for happiness for the betterment of today, for the advancement of oneself; it is the desire to have a nicer home, a better piano or radio; it is the dream of social improvement, a happier world, and so on.’

Is hope only in the future? Is there not hope also in the what has been, in the hold of the past? Hope is in both the forward and the backward movement of thought. Hope is the process of time, is it not? Hope is the desire for the continuation of that which has been pleasant, of that which can be improved, made better; and its opposite is hopelessness, despair. We swing between hope and despair. We say that we live because there is hope; and hope is in the past, or, more frequently, in the future. The future is the hope of every politician, of every reformer and revolutionary, of every seeker after virtue and what we call God. We say that we live by hope; but do we? Is it living when the future or the past dominates us? Is living a movement of the past to the future? When there is concern for tomorrow, are you living? It is because tomorrow has become so important that there is hopelessness, despair. If the future is all important and you live for it and by it, then the past is the means of despair. For the hope of tomorrow, you sacrifice today; but happiness is ever in the now. It is the unhappy who fill their lives with concern for tomorrow, which they call hope. To live happily is to live without hope. The man of hope is not a happy man, he knows despair. The state of hopelessness projects hope or resentment, despair or the bright future.

‘But are you saying that we must live without hope?’

Is there not a state which is neither hope nor hopelessness, a state which is bliss? After all, when you considered yourself happy, you had no hope, had you?

‘I see what you mean. I had no hope because he was beside me and I was happy to live from day to day. But now he is gone, and… We are free of hope only when we are happy. It is when we are unhappy, disease ridden, oppressed, exploited, that tomorrow becomes important; and if tomorrow is impossible, we are in complete darkness, in despair. But how is one to remain in the state of happiness?’

First see the truth of hope and hopelessness. Just see how you have been held by the false, by the illusion of hope, and then by despair. Be passively watchful of this process – which is not as easy as it sounds. You ask how to remain in the state of happiness. Is not this very question based essentially on hope? You wish to regain what you have lost, or through some means to possess it again. This question indicates the desire to gain, to become, to arrive, does it not? When you have an objective, an end in view, there is hope; so again you are caught in your own unhappiness. The way of hope is the way of the future, but happiness is never a matter of time. When there was happiness, you never asked how to continue in it; if you had asked, you would have already tasted unhappiness.

‘You mean this whole problem arises only when one is in conflict, in misery. But when one is miserable one wants to get out of it which is natural.’

The desire to find a way out only brings another problem. By not understanding the one problem, you introduce many others. Your problem is unhappiness, and to understand it there must be freedom from all other problems. Unhappiness is the only problem you have; don’t become confused by introducing the further problem of how to get out of it. The mind is seeking a hope, an answer to the problem, a way out. See the falseness of this escape, and then you will be directly confronted with the problem. It is this direct relationship with the problem that brings a crisis, which we are all the time avoiding; but it is only in the fullness and intensity of the crisis that the problem comes to an end.

‘Ever since the fatal accident I have felt that I must get lost in my own despair, nourish my own hopelessness; but somehow it has been too much for me. Now I see that I must face it without fear, and without the feeling of disloyalty to him. You see, I felt deep down that I would in some way be disloyal to him if I continued to be happy; but now the burden is already lifting, and I sense a happiness which is not of time.’