Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Hanging on to Hope

Recently, my daughter was voicing her opinions about how she thought that the world be a much better place if we changed the ways that meat was raised and produced in this country. She felt that the meat would likely be more expensive and that therefore people would eat less meat and it would create health for the animals, the humans who eat them and the planet. My son is a bit of a cynic at the ripe old age at 13. “People will never go for that”, he said. “Nobody is going to give up their cheap McDonald’s”. I pointed out to him that in the past, human beings as a group have actually changed their health habits for the better because they were educated in those directions or because there were consequences for continuing in the bad habits. Cigarette smoking is definitely one prime example, as are the use of seatbelts and protective helmets for lots of different sports.

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?




I'm "catching up" with your posts this a.m. because apparently I didn't have your blogsite posted on my reader and didn't realize that you have been writing regularly.

It is truly easy to be a pessimist and much harder to be an optimist. This battle rages in me a lot and confuses me somewhat. You saw my post re HOME, such a beautiful film full of desperation but then at the end so full of hope!

You are so right in saying and believing in Nouwen and Ram Dass....we are only one but we have to do what WE can do. A friend was blazing away to me last night in an email about the pitiful efforts we make regarding wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. She is tremendous in her support of anti-war efforts even to the point of making her own life frantic sometimes. I reasoned back that for the some people doing nothing there are others like she and still others who take baby steps every day to just do what we can do!

It's a little amazing to me that your children and my grandchildren even have to contemplate these issues at such a young age. I think I was riding my bike and playing softball at their ages with not a care in the world........I can't say which generation is/was better off.

Great post!

Beth Knight said...

Rebecca - this was VERY good ! Thank you for the time and effort you put into your posts. I feel I should take my site down. I just am not finding time for it. Tell Tim that I am one human who is taking steps to be healthy and more globally conscious as I have become a vegetarian. I have been on this path now for 3 weeks and am totally into it for health, society and spiritual reasons. Sugar, meat,gluten, processed foods, caffeine ... I have said goodbye to it all. Long story - but what is right in front of me has alot to do with breaking free of the prison that food and body have been intertwined in for years.
And suddenly, it feels very much like a sacred choice. It started to be a health choice as an anti inflammatory diet... but now, I only want the Garden of Eden types of foods. I don't want to eat animals or fake food. BTW... Bella is such a sweetie... Another thing right in front of me is this puppy who snuggles and is so loving. The nest doesnt feel so empty and the world feels more bearable - one day at a time - due to the love of this sweet dog. All this is much lighter than your deep post ... but it is what is right in front of me ... Grateful for my new way of eating and for my sweet puppy. Namaste' bk

The Pollinatrix said...

There is a clarity and beauty that just shines through in this post.

I love Henri Nouwen's writings. I especially like the Ram Dass quote.

My response here is exactly what I just posted at Mind Sieve, on the "Home" post.

I would just add, in answer to your questions posted here, that I find hope because it wells mysteriously within me against all "evidence" to the contrary, and thus, to my mind, proves itself true.

I find support for it in conversations like this, and in the peace and beauty and joy, that against all fear and ugliness, still lights up the world.

Rebecca Johnson said...

SS, It is so true about the differences between the worries of our childhoods and those of our children. I guess I had the Vietnam war and of course there was the Cold War.

Since posting this I have felt renewed in doing what I can, hoping all that I can, and practicing Ram Dass's advice. However, it's hard, very hard to stay open to all of that suffering that is in front of us. Isn't it?


Rebecca Johnson said...

Beth, I am grateful with you for that crazy puppy and your exploration of new ways of eating. It is true that it is a sacred choice because it is a mindful choice. I am glad that you are feeling well. Keep up the good work. I spent about a year as a vegetarian and now I wonder how I did it. I just didn't like meat for that period of time. I think that it would be easier to do without my kids. Some day....

Please don't take your site down. Just leave it there and get over there whenever you can. I am subscribed so if you ever post, I will know it. I KNOW that you are going to have something to say some day and I'll be here when you do. : )

Rebecca Johnson said...


I have to smile at your post. I wrote this blog about "trying" I guess to hang on to my hope. But in reality the truth is that I can't help but BE hopeful. Sometimes it would be easier to just through up my hands and say, "Screw it. We're doomed." But, I CAN'T. I'm doomed to hope. But, you are right, I couldn't do it without my loving communities. Thanks for becoming a part of that! I am so glad to see you here and at the other blogs. (Sunrise Sister, Lucy, Tess and wherever else you might be!) Love...

The Pollinatrix said...

I'm incredibly grateful to have found all you ladies. I feel like I'm home.

Have you read Animal, Vegetable, Miracle by Barbara Kingsolver? A few months ago I was doing a lot of reading on global food issues, and that book is my absolute favorite. The discussion here about vegetarianism/meat-eating put me in mind of it. She gives the single best discussion of this topic I've ever come across.