The Vienna Period: The Hope Rooms


The machine pumps like a heart in the background. An awkward double-clicking on the inhale, the sound of pressure releasing on the exhale. Click, click; psssssh. It is a sound many others have heard in similar rooms—in rooms where the common denominator is hope. The Hope Rooms, where every day is a coin toss, where things can go this way or that way and no one really knows. The rooms where life and death plea their cases.

Who is the ultimate judge?

“At the end of the day I know I will have to stand in front of my maker and explain whether I’ve done the best I knew how in this life,” our doctor says as he tells us his philosophy on treating his patients. His judge is known to him. My mom and I both like that, despite both of us having an allergy to religion.

“Spiritual but not religious.” This is a thing people say these days. Religion like America: It’s done a lot of us wrong so we have developed a particular distaste for it. Doesn’t mean we don’t believe in the core of it all. New words for new times; new words we can swallow.

If you asked me what I believed I’d tell you what I know: We are our own makers while simultaneously being made by something larger than but also inclusive of ourselves. And that is not a contradiction; it is a paradox. The difference is vital.

We make. We are made. Every day is creation—whether we are aware of it or not. Everything is connected and affected and there are laws we cannot see.

In The Hope Room, we listen. Viennese music plays in the background; the Waltz. But it’s subtle compared to the mechanical heartbeat that we have unconsciously synced our breaths to. Click, click; psssssh. The sound is a warm blanket at this point. Our Hope Room, now, happens to be in Vienna, though previously we’ve spent plenty of time in Hope Rooms of America. We are here because America being the leader in everything is, in 2014, a myth. And in medicine? A flat out lie. Like the American Dream, Hope in America is a nostalgia more than a reality. It’s a bumper sticker more than something that sticks.

My mom would not be happy if I marched with the masses.

Those pink ribbons have become something meaningful only because Americans make meaning of ribbons–very little else, but store-bought ribbons, yes. Buy some or else you aren’t patriotic! Buy a ribbon, show your support for what you support or else you don’t really support it–yellow for “our troops,” red for “AIDS,” multi-color for Autistm. And we all know what pink stands for. Pink washed: when you are led to believe the “race is for the cure” when the race is really for money. At the core ribbons are nothing more than consumer bullshit. All the colors, really they mean green.

Back to Hope. Back to Vienna. The Waltz. Heartbeats. Mom in a contraption that is shaped like a coffin.

But is not a coffin.

Secular people focused only on the material world often, at some point or another when life gets to be too much, default to hopelessness. Spiritual people, on the other hand, may (and probably do) feel depressed at one point or another, but they always manage to reconnect with optimism. And here’s something: spirituality, though famous for its “light,” embraces darkness as well–agreeing to a continuum. Depression is OK. Have you ever heard someone say that? I’m saying it. Hear this: If this world didn’t at times depress you, I’d be concerned.

It’s all about your angle. What are you going to do while the tide is low?

Depression periods, as previously discussed, can make us appreciate the sun. Dark can make us appreciate the light. Keep it in check, that’s all. Outer space and black holes are two different things, know what I mean? I am not interested in the people who want “light always,” the people who insist on “light always”–as they criticize you for your darkness rather than exercise compassion. Nothing worse than artificial lighting. First, it is an inauthentic way to be; a skirt-things-under-the-rug, repressed way to be. Second, it’s those who have endured the darkest, most difficult lives and address that darkness who come out the other side the most kind; the most inspirational; the most bright. I am interested in kindness and inspiration and brightness; I am interested in what I want to become.

Everyone has a battle they are fighting—life is a Hope Room, is it not? To be alive is to constantly struggle to find the truth. The truth: that “struggle” isn’t even real. Freedom is right under our nose, though it takes a lot of discipline to smell it. We get in our own way; we are the obstacle; we hold our own selves hostage; we are our own locks, and, guess what? Our own keys.

Captor or liberator? The choice is forever our own.

Click, click; psssssh.

The machine beats its heart; my mom beats hers; I beat whatever alive is left of mine. But broken hearts are like severed earthworms: they regenerate. We are here to get our hearts broken as many times as it takes to realize we can never truly have broken hearts. We are here to understand that we were built to mend. In our Viennese Hope Room we do every thing we can to shed the toxins in a healthy way—to regenerate to wholeness. My mom and I both, for life is a Hope Room. It is. For everyone. Which is why compassion is the biggest key that unlocks the most locks. We are in this together.

We are here to pull each other up; we are here to find those hearts that pull us up when so much of today pulls us down—buoys to hold onto in the storm.


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