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Hope is the illusion that human beings typically conjure up for ourselves to support our desire of realizing a future we want but don’t presently live. Nowhere is this more evident than with activists. Hope is promoted to keep people afloat, sustaining us during moments of doubt and fear. It is what we traffic in to prevent us from otherwise sinking into despair in the present.

Hope is becoming increasingly urgent in the time of the long emergency, this perfect storm of interrelated, reinforcing crises including the impending climate apocalypse — the eye of this storm — emerging threat of fascism, intractable white supremacy, serial pandemics, systemic theft of society’s wealth by a rapacious oligarchy, alarming rate of “deaths of despair” suicides, and reemergence of Cold War-type hostility with Russia and China and its attendant threat of nuclear Armageddon. Together, they confront us with the specter of civilization’s collapse.

It is not surprising, therefore, that we desperately cling to hopes that our lives can be improved, better than they presently are. Margaret Wheatley wrote, “Hope is a filter we willingly place on reality. Instead of noticing what is, we obscure it with our needs and dreams,” in her fine book, “Who Do We Choose To Be?”

Unfortunately, too many of us give our lives over to the gossamer vagaries of “hopes.” Because it is rooted in the future — in something that doesn’t exist — and requires little more from us than wishful thinking and blind faith, hope is not located in what is real, and, hence, where possibility has a chance to be realized. It is not grounded, that is, in the present, our moment-to-moment existence, and what we’re actually doing and who we really are, right now.

The reality of the present is the only time and place where what we hope for actually lives in any meaningful sense. Anything other than living our hopes now is an exercise in postponing our lives to another day.

As usual, the activist Buddhist, Thich Nhat Hanh, cuts through the delusional miasma when he simply states, “The future is being made out of the present, so the best way to take care of the future is to take care of the present moment.”

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In their book, “Active Hope,” Joanna Macy and Chris Johnstone write about the need for “becoming active participants in bringing about what we hope for.” They state that hope “is something we do rather than something we have.” This contrasts with the typical view, which insists that first we must have hope in order to act. “The guiding impetus is intention; we choose what we aim to bring about. Rather than weighing our chances and proceeding only when we feel hopeful, we focus on our intention and let it be our guide.”

Central to acting in this manner is accepting life for what it is, and living our lives accordingly. This is critical to engaging in a practice that is relevant to the circumstances we face today that many of us would rather ignore or deny. Going about our everyday on the basis of hopes that are divorced from reality is always a recipe for disaster.

A realistic practice, on the other hand, begins with an acceptance of life which includes not only the increasing likelihood of collapse, but just as importantly, an embrace of the inherently good person of heartfelt values we potentially are, whenever we choose to be. It is only when we are real about and act upon life and ourselves as we both actually are that we can realize the substance of our hopes.

Kate Davies further amplified this understanding when she wrote in an op-ed for “Tikkun” about what she terms, “intrinsic hope.” Based on our heart values, we “accept whatever happens and do whatever needs to be done,” the consequence of which is a daily practice where “we act because it is the loving and caring thing to do.” Acting unconditionally, doing what has to be done for its own sake, and because it is the right thing to do in the moment at hand, is a necessary condition of responding effectively not only to collapse, but to life, in general.

By becoming one with our moral values in the living moment, hope becomes everything we could hope for, right now, the worthwhile, meaningful life we want. By its very nature, a values-grounded practice inspires reality-based hope because then we are acting with selfless love, personal integrity, moral courage, unmitigated joy, and a basic commitment to the sacredness of life.

“We cannot save the world,” Margaret Wheatley writes, “but we can embody our best human qualities of generosity, creativity and compassion to offer support, companionship, consolation and humor to those within our sphere of influence.” Or as the controversial climate scientist, Guy McPherson, put it, “Our days are numbered. Passionately pursue a life of excellence.”

Tim Stevenson is a community organizer with Post Oil Solutions from Athens, and author of “Resilience and Resistance: Building Sustainable Communities for a Post Oil Age,” 2015, Green Writers Press. The opinions expressed by columnists do not necessarily reflect the views of Vermont News & Media.