(Abridged version of the Foreword by Dr. Sarah Wider)
What fills you with hope? I ask that question with urgency, in this time where despair is in the air we breathe. Consider the “moment” in which I write. Violence has seemingly become the default setting in human behavior from the wars that destroy lives in every part of the world to the language we use in everyday life.
How do we even talk about hope, let alone participate in it, given the present time? As Daisaku Ikeda notes in his final essay for this collection, the Doomsday Clock stands at 11:55 p.m. We have five minutes left. That essay was written in 2007. Given the continued growth of carbon emissions and the escalation of climate disruption, given the heightened rhetoric of violence that nations adopt and the escalating violence that they enact on others, five minutes has dwindled to two and a half. What, then, is the use of hope?
In these essays, written and published over the course of an also tumultuous and violent fifty years, Ikeda calls us to understand hope in a way we may have forgotten or perhaps never known. He asks his readers to learn its range, to listen to its heart, to study its many and varied manifestations. Hope may be as familiar as a friend’s encouragement, as near as the tree that grows in an unlikely place, as immediate as the harmonies that come into our thoughts. At the same time, Ikeda reminds us that hope is neither easy nor does it mean acquiescence to injustice. These essays open our eyes to the profound and courageous determination required of those who decide for hope.
Ikeda takes us into his life, into his friends’ lives, his mother’s life, a brother’s death during World War II. In what might be thought of as the emotional center of this collection, he describes the heart-wrenching conversations he shared with a friend when hope threatened to become an empty word (“Children of War”). Since that war, he has dedicated his life to the abolition of nuclear weapons, to the healing of the earth, to creating and supporting peace-centered education, and he has undertaken a particular form of hope-based dialogue with everyone he meets. Through his writings, he brings us into those dialogues, reflecting on what he has learned while thinking together with historian Arnold Toynbee, writers Yoshida Shoin and Oswald Mbuyiseni Mtshali, his mentor, Josei Toda, and so many others.
Here is an ever young Walt Whitman showing a young and potentially despairing Daisaku Ikeda how one could “cast aside all racial prejudices and [break] down all class barriers.” Ikeda heard Mahatma Gandhi’s call to resist the absolute despair of violence and live the courage of nonviolence. For the readers Ikeda imagines, that, too, is their decision. He invites his readers—he invites us—to take the time we need and the time we must to engage with such courage.
Who are those readers? Each essay was originally published in a particular place at a particular time. They range in date from the mid–1960s to the mid–2000s and speak to the increasing isolation felt in the late twentieth century and today, whether one is a young person seeking a purpose-full life or an elder facing a society that shuns age and fears death. Written from the lived knowledge of Japan during and after World War II, the essays ask readers to consider scrupulously their thoughts, their words, their actions,and the consequences of all that they think, say, and do.
He reminds us that we live in a profoundly relational world. To decide for hope, we must think and feel and act within a lived understanding of connectedness and its far-reaching consequences.
There is nothing more profoundly connective than to be able to listen, truly listen, to another’s story—a person’s story, the land’s story. To share with a good heart one’s own story and have that story received with a good heart affirms and continues, even when those stories are wrought with pain. Ikeda reminds us that it is humanly possible to share the “realities of sufferings and challenges” in a healthful and life-affirming way. It need not be condescending or colonizing or controlling. It need not perpetuate the status quo but in fact can be and is the genius of change.
If we do not feel that agony, Ikeda reminds us, we have not yet realized our human potential, . . . we have not yet decided for hope.
Hamilton, New York
Professor of English and Women’s Studies, Colgate University
Hope and Happiness
- The Most Important Decision
- Courage, Conviction, Hope
- Truth Close at Hand
- Winter Never Lasts
- Too Much Stress
Friendship and Poetry
- True Friends
- Children of War
- Cemetery Days
- An Unforgettable Book
- Each of Us a Poet
Good and Evil
- The Death of Death
- World War II and After
- Work to Make Ourselves Happy
- A Remarkable Country
- In the Right Direction
- No Full-Scale Nuclear War
- Secretary for Peace
- The Immorality of War
- The Dilemma of the Absolute Pacifist
Life and Death
- Our Pomegranate Tree
- To Risk Our Lives
- My Mentor’s Death
- The Real Thing
- An Aging Society
- Every Moment of Every Day
“In this collection Daisaku Ikeda beckons us to probe deeper into our own lives so that we can change the world around us. Having witnessed and experienced the worst, he reaffirms that life does continue, that the light of hope can be found in the very darkest corners.”
—Ambassador Anwarul K. Chowdhury, former UN Under-Secretary-General, founder of The Global Movement for the Culture of Peace
“Philosopher, prophet, and poet of the power of hope and happiness, Daisaku Ikeda draws from the wellspring of his eventful life and imparts page after page of rich insight, royal wisdom, and spiritual truth with a style reminiscent of a comfortable living room conversation. This volume will greatly strengthen your devotional meditations and commitment to personal and global peace.”
—Lawrence E. Carter Sr., Dean of the Martin Luther King Jr. International Chapel, Morehouse College