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The Road Ahead: Heartbreak and Hope

The Road Ahead: Heartbreak and Hope

Where does your road take you? Where are we headed as a human community? The first question is personal and intuitive for each of us. To the second question I would say that we don’t know. We do know that the way we are living now must change. I found this quote below insightful as we deal with the chaos, division and violence on many levels that we do now.

“Fear and confusion signal change. . . Exponential change creates exponential fear along with exponential hope.” These are the words of author and historian, Diana Butler Bass. Don’t we all know this on a deep level and experience a range of hope, fear, anger, sadness and confusion every day? We are in turbulent and uncertain times and the only thing that is clear is that we need, and are in a time of, great change. Bass continues: “Massive transformation creates the double-edged cultural sword of decline and renewal. Exponential change ends those things that people once assumed and trusted to be true. At the same time, upheaval opens new pathways to the future. Change is about endings and beginnings and the necessary interrelationship between the two.” Fr. Richard Rohr says, "This rapid change is scary and unsettling. I can see why people are panicking and trying to find some solid ground, a fixed point to the turning world. Fundamentalist religion and identity politics seem to be running the show now, and I can even understand that. But God has never “circled the wagons” to regain control and stability. God only moves in every larger spheres and orbits, which is what we mean by calling God infinite, eternal, or almighty."

So how do we stay sane in times like these? In spite of the suffering and pain we see around us can we still enjoy our lives? It helps me to remember the cycle of death and rebirth, loss and renewal. How hard it is to let go of what we know, what we’re used to, but if we have the courage and trust to let go, we can move forward creating something new, something that we like better. We have only to emulate the leaves the let go in the fall, to return again brand new in the spring.

It also seems to me that we have almost an obligation to be joyful, to keep our spirits up, to allow ourselves to be happy, to laugh, to have fun. In that way we can add to the positive spirit that rises above all that is destructive and negative.

Here is an excerpt from a beautiful and important poem by Jack Gilbert called “A Brief for the Defense.” Do read the whole poem; it will do your heart good.

We must risk delight. We can do without pleasure,
but not delight. Not enjoyment. We must have
the stubbornness to accept our gladness in the ruthless
furnace of this world. To make injustice the only
measure of our attention is to praise the Devil.

A Brief for the Defesne by Jack Gilbert

Neuroscience tells us that our minds tend toward the negative. We are more inclined to complain and grouse about things than to see the positive. So we need to be aware of that and watch our thoughts, and watch our intake of negative news.

If we strive for unity, harmony, nonviolence, understanding, equality and justice for all—and I include the Earth in “all”—then we must practice these things, even and especially in our thoughts about people who are practicing the opposite. Many of our wise teachers caution about the danger of making good guys and bad guys. If we rant and rave about the “bad guys,” we are no better than they are. As Michelle Obama said in a campaign speech, “When they go low, we go high.” It doesn’t mean we roll over, or we condone lack of civility, respect, truth, and injustice. It means that we see all this as personal and cultural roundedness and ignorance. We do not wish ill on people who are doing bad things; on the contrary, we wish them to be happy, because if they are happy, they will likely not harm others.

May all beings be happy.


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