Dec. 11, 2017.
By Intern Minister Pippin Whitaker.
Someone recently asked me how I stay hopeful about our society when it appears “things are tanking.” I believe we have the capacity to plant love, with every breath, even – and poignantly – amid heartache. I hope the love we plant will be enough to soften a clenched heart and make it weep. And ultimately, I hope because being hopeful is not a sentiment, it is a choice. I have hope because I chose to hold on to it. Sometimes it is defiant hope.
Note, however, that hope is not the same as optimism. We humans are capable of heart-shattering depravity. And world-bending love. At the same time. Like my friend, I lack hope that we will become beings of untainted love. I am fairly certain becoming such beings would require evolution and extinction of what we are now. It may happen, but that is not my hope for humanity. I have hope because love is what binds us to life, and because of that, we will always have within us a sense of the presence and direction of love. This is a hope that goes beyond my inner cynic’s worst-case scenario. I get hope from knowing that love will come back from anything, and will always guide us onward in good times and bad.
My hope comes tearfully, knowing that all lost children are wrapped in someone’s love. I remember reading about how a Polish town had turned on their Jewish neighbors prior to World War II. The non-Jewish townspeople locked and boarded the Jewish inhabitants – entire families of their neighbors and friends – in a synagogue and left them to starve. I wept and grieved for the people in that synagogue, for all the children of that town. I can do this because I am human. Because I know love and compassion, across space and time. I hold on fiercely to hope in love.
No matter how depraved our society may become, humans instinctively know the way to love. Someone will hold us in love one day. But this type of thinking is the “worst-case-scenario” end of my source of defiant hope. If we grab the mane of hope amid the Holocaust, she will lurch us out of the mass grave and toward something more loving. If we hold on long enough, and master the fashioning and use of tools that bind our families and societies together in love and compassion, I believe a best-case scenario will eventually unfold.
And that is what we do here in this community: We hold on to hope in love, we fashion the tools that bind our families and societies to love. We nurture a sense for justice, which helps us put those tools into practice. As we come to terms with the latest iteration of our destructive human potential, may we continually give each other adequate support to embody our highest ideals.
This is hard work, especially when it appears that all that affirms love and justice are “tanking.” But I am not hopeful because things look good. I am hopeful because I believe in our capacity to sense love, to turn toward justice, for distant hearts to weep. So, in the face of unfathomable greed, humanitarian atrocity and death, I am fiercely, defiantly hopeful. Hope is a wild beast, heart pounding ceaselessly into the next moment despite scrapes and scars. To be hopeful is to be committed to hold on for the ride. So, let’s hold on, let’s keep building Beloved Community no matter what, because it is our choice, our promise and our covenant with one another.