A Few Words about Hope and Despair

Credit: Randi Hausken, https://www.flickr.com/photos/randihausken/3483575184

To look for hope in our own conduct is futile.

To feel the pulse of Earth as it responds to the sun is to know something beneath our emotions of hope and despair. A stream of vitality runs through all that is, and, fortunately, we have access to that which flows. The animals may feel a long winter coming. The air may still tolerate our exhaust. The wind is losing patience. The water is confused. But the sun knows. The secret power of birth and breath knows there is nothing to fear.

This is a religious conviction: to trust our irrational perception of a creative force around and within us, a force that is both gentle and indomitable. This life force infuses the dandelion and suggests a tilt toward the light. This life force remains open and available to humans, even as they become encrusted, hardened.

To look for hope among human conduct is futile. But to feel for life in every breath holds deep reward. A citizen plants a garden that yields a handful of tomatoes; one is sweet to taste, two are taken by the bugs, and three are squandered against a wall. Does the vine despair? If the gardener can hear the whisper of the vine, even vandals are welcome to the fruit. This knowledge is useless but sustaining.

Ask an activist why she keeps at her task of providing food, consolation, policy improvements, water, medication, and her answer can only sound glib. To look for hope among human conduct is futile. But to feel a kinship with those who open up to generosity is to grasp something ineffable and even inspiring. This is a process, not a product. This is living and breathing, nothing more.

I offer a word to those who, like myself, were raised within a religious tradition. In my case, I came of age in Mennonite Christian soil. This soil is tainted with patriarchy, capitalism and an embarrassing arrogance toward plants and animals. But I have discovered a spirit beneath the tradition, a spirit that is connected to everything. It emanates from the ancient saints of virtue and the volunteers in thrift store aisles. A trustworthy spirit exists in our midst. It will appear both futile and liberating. It will be both dissident and exemplary. And it forgets to fret for hope.

Issue 36

This article first appeared in Geez magazine Issue 36, Winter 2014, The End.

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