It’s now been a year living with COVID 19. Every month there is a new perspective, new information, adjustments to my thinking, new questions about life as we have been living it, variants, looking forward to vaccine, and wondering what’s next. In light of a myriad of invitations to attend on-line studies, discussions, friend’s on-line visits, concerts and church groups, I have chosen to follow the church year beginning in Advent and explore the meaning and influence my faith gives to me in this time.
Hope seemed to be the theme that jumped out at the beginning of Advent and stayed with me as a way of “living through”. I have usually been a pretty positive person, a born optimist. But I must confess that after a year this has become a trying time.
The shape of hope was being more present to my own reality of retirement in a pandemic; deciding what is really important to focus on, and what beliefs and actions I need to let go of. My wife and I did more cleaning out and throwing stuff away. In the process, finding things like our Moravian Advent star which we hung in our living room window for the first time in several years, and my father’s retirement watch which I am now wearing. Hope is connecting with the traditions and memories that are really connected to my identity.
No matter how positive I tried to be about the value of darkness, the gift of reflection, the place of spiritual connection; it cannot replace the value of a hug. The face on a screen is not the same as a face in my living room, sharing life in a much bigger way.
Hope, for me, always emerged as the new year arrived. The new year was not so much about looking back, as looking ahead and dreaming about tomorrow. I am looking forward to a time that will be more full of life, and maybe some travel again.
Following Advent, the season of Epiphany is the wise person’s journey — the inner experience of meeting the sacred and wondering what this means for personal futures and the future of the world. The biblical instruction to go home by another route seems the basis of hope. It is no longer enough to just meet the Christ, nor to merely recognize the Christ; it is now necessary to live in unity with the Christ. What does going home by a different route, living in a new way mean for me, for my church community, and for the world I live in?
Huge divisions in our world have come into focus with Black Lives Matter, the invasion of the Capitol building in the U.S. and the long transition of power in the White House — leaving a huge divide between the conservative right and the progressive left. And not to forget the COVID 19 vaccine rollouts in the midst of economic challenges that will stress governments around the world for years to come.
Climate emergencies continue to remind me that the clock is ticking on the future of human life on our planet. Hope is hard to hang onto in the midst of a whirlwind where there are too many issues and too little agreement — wondering if there is enough time to make a difference. And still I carry on with new initiatives and actions: we put insulation in our attic and are now talking about solar panels for our house. I have joined with a few others wondering about the future of the church and how we can focus the energy of hope and love to make a difference. HOPE is Having Other Perspectives Emerge. Or Helping Other Perspectives Emerge.
Commanding Hope by Thomas Homer-Dixon has been a guidebook on hope for me. He talks about hope needing to be honest, astute and powerful. It is the movement from “hope that” to “hope to”. The former phrase is passive, and the latter phrase needs a verb, an action. The Evolutionary Spiritual perspective is not that someone or something is going to come and save us. That is a passive approach to life. Waiting on Jesus, or a vaccine, or some new technology to get us out of our predicament so we can get back to being the same people who caused the predicament in the first place is not an active approach.
This is our moment as a human race to wonder how we use our gifts (gold, frankincense and myrrh). We receive the gift of financial resources which our ego selfishly uses for our personal benefit. This is an economics of greed. However, if we see our money as our soul views it, it becomes gold, to be used to promote relationships for growth and unity, expressing a quality of life that honours our ability to love and create community where we can thrive. The second gift, frankincense, helps us establish communication between the sacred and the secular. Our ego identity sees us as separate from creation, but our sacred self knows we are a sacred gift, and the whole world, the whole universe, joins as one when our worldview shifts from competition to cooperation. The third gift of myrrh represents seeing a new vision for humankind, a vision of living out the sacramental blessing, of being called/chosen to live in a way that expresses the divine presence that is in everyone and everything — being a blessing as we have been blessed.
Now here we are in Lent, another time to consider what is getting in the way of following our path. Giving up something is only important if it allows us to give more time or resources to what is really important to us.
Commanding Hope is a message for our time. Along with so many other crises in our world, the pandemic has smashed our hope for the good life. It has brought threats and disruptions to light. What we believed, and the way we’ve lived, is being called into question. I think it is evident that the way the human race has been living is not sustainable and is slowly, (recently more rapidly) leading to our demise. Homer-Dixon makes this case very clearly, while also maintaining that hope is our only salvation. He says there is tension between honesty and hope; that true hope has to be honest, astute and powerful if it is going to lead us to “the good life”.
I kept reading because I wanted to know if he really has some concrete suggestions about how we do this. He does. The one that stuck with me is that one person or one small belief can make a huge difference. He points out that human beings are not at the top of the food chain, but are a part of the universe like everything else. We are all connected, and our life is dependent on other parts of our world thriving as well – plants, animals, air and water quality and the balance of life that the earth maintains — the balance we must help maintain because we now have the power to throw everything out of wack. (See quote Barbara Holmes below).
Homer-Dixon says the scope of the change needed is akin to the worldwide movement to eradicate slavery through the 18th to 20th centuries. To do this we need a compelling argument that will unite people from every part of humanity, regardless of nationality, race, creed or political persuasion. Such a unity of humanity is necessary and possible if we can identify one compelling value statement that we share. Greta Thunberg gave us this one, “Do it because you love your children.” The reason common action is so difficult, Homer-Dixon writes, is because “… a concerted effort to save the earth will require calling for the replacement of the encompassing, entrenched, powerfully interlinked set of worldviews, institutions and technologies in which we are currently embedded.”
In other words, our whole life will change.
Does this leave me hopeful? Sort of. Salvation is possible but not probable. There is a way forward, and there are signs that the worldview necessary for it to succeed has already been articulated and found some traction in people like Richard Rohr and his Centre for Action and Contemplation. Lent is a good time to ponder the hope that Jesus lived and died to share with the world. The resurrection is the life we are living now into a future we want for our children and all life on this planet.
A post by Barbara Holmes on Richard Rohr’s daily blog: https://cac.org/new-language-for-a-new-story-2021-02-15/
“The physics and cosmology revolution that is 100 years old has not been translated into the ordinary world of any of us, and specifically not in communities of color. The world that scientists describe now is so different than the world that I grew up in or even imagined. According to physicists, this is what the world is like: it is a universe permeated with movement and energy that vibrates and pulses with access to many dimensions…. We are all interconnected, not just spiritually or imaginably, but actually… and the explicate [or manifested] order that’s all around us makes us think that we’re separate. Finally, I learned that ideas of dominance are predicated on a Newtonian clockwork universe. So, like dominoes, you push one and they all fall down, and everything is in order. But quantum physics tells us that the world is completely different. Particles burst into existence in unpredictable ways, observations affect the observed, and dreams of order and rationality are not the building blocks of the universe.”