I was relating this to an acquaintance last night who said, “I wish that I could share your optimism. I just watch one hour of Meet the Press and I got so depressed and pessimistic.” He then spent the next five minutes or so listing all of the things that we are up against. The next time he took a breath, I said, “Man! Now I’m depressed!”
Last night I was reading from Henri Nouwen’s book, The Way of the Heart.
Many voices wonder if humanity can survive its own destructive powers. As we reflect on the increasing poverty and hunger, the rapidly spreading hatred and violence within as well as between countries, and the frightening buildup of nuclear weapons systems, we come to realize that our world has embarked on a suicidal journey.
It seems that the darkness is thicker than ever, that the powers of evil are more blatantly visible than ever, and that the children of God are being tested more severely than ever.
During the last few years I have been wondering what it means to be a minister in such a situation. What is required of men and women who want to bring light into the darkness….? What is required of a man or a woman who is called to enter fully into the turmoil and agony of the times and speak a word of hope?
These words were written in 1981 and I think that we would all agree that things have gotten a lot worse in that period of time. How do we hang on to hope in the face of the unbelievably complicated troubles of this country, this international community, this world? My son, again at 13, says, “We’re doomed. Why bother trying?” And some part of me wants to agree with him. I pray that it is a very small part, for as a person of faith I am called to hope and to help, whatever that might mean.
One more story: During the height of the Cold War, the spiritual teacher Ram Dass was asked whether the world was facing a nuclear Armageddon or, as some were prophesying, a “new age” of peace and love and deeper awareness. Ram Dass said, “I used to think I should have an opinion on this. But as I examined it, I saw that if it’s going to be Armageddon and we’re going to die, the best think to do to prepare for it is to quiet my mind, open my heart, and deal with the suffering in front of me. And if it’s going to be the new age, the best thing to do is to quiet my mind, open my heart, and deal with the suffering in front of me.”
This feels very true. And so I go on, turning the lights off and the heat down, eating less meat, helping the needy here in Anchorage, giving away my money and my time, and keeping my heart as open as I can. Will it be enough to save us? I don’t know. But it’s what I can do.
Please let me know your thoughts on hope. What keeps you moving forward both in the world and in your own spirit? Where do you find support for this journey?