In the morning I usually try not to read the news as a first activity. I’m much more concerned about inner meanings. This might sound like a “pollyanna” attitude, one that hides unpleasant or inexplicable truths because they are too difficult to absorb. That could be true of an optimist like myself but I prefer to look at it as self-protection that allows me to first blog without distraction. Sometimes, like today, that kind of avoidance is impossible. After having written about the concerns of Pope Francis on climate change yesterday it was impossible to avoid the news of Dorian, the worst hurricane the Bahamas have ever experienced, then the story about the latest shooting spree by a man in Texas yesterday who had just lost his job, the sad state of politics in our country and a man who had just died from a flesh-eating disease!
“What is happening to the world?” I ask myself. Things certainly seem to be devolving into chaos on many fronts. It is difficult to maintain any sense of hope even in the most banal of issues. (Today is Labor Day in the United States, the second largest picnic day of the year and a drenching rain will be with us until tomorrow.)
My only refuge today is in the small but powerful book by Cynthia Bourgeault called Mystical Hope. Cynthia’s definition of this virtue differs from “normal” hope in that mystical hope is not tied to a good outcome or to the future. “It lives a life of its own, seemingly without reference to external circumstances or conditions. It has something to do with presence,” she writes, and “rather than…from outward expectations being met,” it seems to bear fruit from within. (See p. 9-12 for complete explanation & examples.)
As I pause and listen to the steady rain outside, I know the truth of that concept. After the hurricane passes, people in our southern states and the islands already damaged by Dorian will grieve their losses – even losses of life – and begin at the same time to help each other to recover from tragedy. There is something in us that will not allow us to give up. Most often at times like this, people talk about God and grace. This kind of hope does not obviate the trials that are part of our lives but allows us to endure and help one another to go on to another day and then the day after that.
Tragedy, it seems, is one of the best motivators for community and community is what we need a lot of right now. May God bless our efforts today and throughout these crises. Amen!