Winter 2009“Oh Light Invisible, We give Thee thanks for Thy great glory”
-T.S.Eliot from Choruses from “The Rock”
A Community of Hope
To share in Hope is not Pollyannaish. To believe in America again is not to be considered fair weather or fickle. To be caught up in the dynamism of these extraordinary times is not naïve or sophomoric. To have Hope that the new president can indeed lead us through these difficult times, is not just giving him the benefit of the doubt, or handing over responsibility, it is taking an active role in the manifestation of the dream.
In “Gifts of an Uncommon Life”, Howard Friend’s new book, he writes “Hope is not a matter of logic… Hope is not a feeling… Hope is not a place to arrive… Hope does not ensure outcome… But, Hope, is a choice.” We can decide to have hope or doubt. It is more than a “glass is half full or empty” exercise.
Our new President presents us with an opportunity to reclaim a modus operandi other than the prevailing cynicism. Howard Friend writes, “Vaclav Havel spoke of Hope as he challenged his beleaguered people to dare a new dream, “Hope is a state of mind, not a state of the world. Either we have hope within us, or we don’t. It is a dimension of the soul; it is not essentially dependent upon some particular observation of the world… Hope is not the conviction that something will turn out well, but the certainty that something makes sense, regardless of how it turns out.”
My friend and Southern playwright Sandra Deer has said, “Things don’t live in Hope,” by which she means that we can’t just sit by idly and want things to change. We have to work for change. It is comparable to the African proverb, “When you pray, move your feet.”
Recently, Betsy and I have been watching HBO’s ‘ John Adams.’ We are fascinated by the diverse opinions of the founding fathers.
Barack Obama speaks to this diversity in “The Audacity of Hope”, “In the history of the world to that point, there were scant examples of functioning democracies …The solution that the Founders arrived at, after contentious debate and multiple drafts, proved to be their novel contribution to the world… In sum the Constitution envisions a road map by which we marry passion to reason, the ideals of individual freedom to the demands of community.”
David Korten writes, in “The Great Turning, from Empire to Earth Community”, “Socrates, Plato and Aristotle, the fabled three, believed that truth is real, is discoverable through disciplined intellectual inquiry, and is the proper basis for a good society. Underlying all their work was a belief in the goodness of Creation and human capacity to reach beyond competitive power and greed in the quest for a good society…They were less concerned with securing individual rights than with solving the puzzle of how a society might best identify and appoint wise leaders of a mature moral consciousness who would guide the society to achievement of its higher-order possibilities”.
Obviously, we are in a time of reckoning. We are all facing the great leveling. It will be a time for re-evaluating our values. It will be a time of letting go. It will be a time of humility. America has had a great run of it. We have bought and sold until our wells have dried up. Now, we face ourselves and have hard decisions to make. Who among us, when faced with the next decision, will act in accordance with what is best for the Whole. Who will gain just a modicum of perspective from their experience and rise up and act with a more integral intention. We can all live with a consciousness which takes ‘the other’ into account. Whether that means, in our interactions with others, in the foods we eat, or the products we make and buy, or the resources we utilize. How can we, from our more humbled place, choose to live in community more intentionally?
As a human being, who is aging and experiencing the imperfections of the body, the randomness of certain health conditions, I am constantly humbled by my meager state. As an artist who strives to do the best work I can but who is always humbled by my own very real limitations, I live in a state of appreciative grace. All we can do is, attempt to do our best. All we can do is try to live, wholly, with conviction and determination. We all know what little difference we can really make in the world. But, when the time comes, when our time comes, we must be ready, this is why, regardless of what our greatest hopes and dreams may be or may have been for our own individual lives, this is the time now for our collective movement forward, for Community, and it may not be our patriotic duty to partake in this movement of hope, but it may well be our civic duty.
There is the very real possibility that this is the dream that the Founding Fathers envisioned centuries ago. All of our perceptions and conceptions about what democracy looked like, may have been misconstrued, we may be just beginning to grab ahold of what real Democracy looks like.
On the evening of the Solstice, Betsy and I stood with 24 of our closest friends around a bonfire in the snow in our backyard. We let the things that we wanted to let go of waft into the flames on little scraps of paper. And as the snow fell down gently around us, we each placed our Hopes for the future into the fire. Several people spoke and read poems, Betsy read a poem by Rumi…
The prophets have wondered to themselves,
should we keep pounding this cold iron ?
How long do we have to whisper into an
empty cage?" Every motion
of created beings comes from the creator. The first soul
pushes, and your
second soul responds, beginning, so don't stay timid. Load the ship
and set out.
No one knows for certain whether the vessel will sink or reach the harbor.
Cautious people say, "I'll do nothing until I can be sure." Merchants know better.
If you do nothing, you lose.
Don't be one of those merchants who won't risk the ocean!
This is much more important
than losing or making money. This is your connection to God!
You must set fire to have
light. Trust means you're ready to risk what you currently have.
Think of your fear and hope about your livelihood.
They make you go to work
diligently every day.
Now consider what the prophets have done. Abraham wore fire
for an anklet.
Moses spoke to the sea. David molded iron. Solomon rode the wind.
Work in the invisible world at least as hard as you do in the visible.
with the prophets even though no one here will know that you are,
not even the helpers of
the qutb, the abdals.
You can't imagine what profit will come!
When one of those
generous ones invites you into his fire, go quickly!
Don't say, "But will it burn
me? Will it hurt!"
Rumi, Work in the Invisible