Where Hope is the battlefield,
and wielding the companion swords
of Love and Kindness,
may we remember who we really are:
warriors of love, advancing with honor and integrity
toward understanding, peace
A few years ago, I had a visitor where I worked at that time. He was a former coworker of mine from years before, and I liked him and had liked working with him. On this visit, though, I saw a side of him I had never seen before. He was complaining about the world—about young people and their habits, in particular. The longer he spoke, the deeper he seemed to sink into his own rut of despair, hopelessness—and even disgust.
As he spoke, a part of my mind recognized that the rant he was on sounded like every other rant I’d heard in my life that came from an older person looking at the changes in the world around them, angry at how the younger generation was “ruining” the world. Throughout my life (even when I was one of those young people with “radical” ideas) I had heard those type of speeches, and it had come to seem to me that what I was really hearing was: The world is changing too quickly for my likes, and I’m afraid of the changes happening around me. I don’t understand why we can’t leave well enough alone, and I don’t know how to navigate these changes. Further, I don’t want to.
This is a reoccurring theme throughout history, usually coming from those who are supposedly older and wiser, talking about some “corruption” or other—be they youthful ideas and conduct, or some new-fangled book, movie, game, trend, etc. There seems to always be something “corrupting” us, and these things can take our hope and propel us into fear, worry, disgust, and negativity if we let them.
- In the 1790 book Memoirs of the Bloomsgrove Family, Reverend Enos Hitchcock wrote,
The free access which many young people have to romances, novels, and plays has poisoned the mind and corrupted the morals of many a promising youth; and prevented others from improving their minds in useful knowledge. Parents take care to feed their children with wholesome diet; and yet how unconcerned about the provision for the mind, whether they are furnished with salutary food, or with trash, chaff, or poison?
- Robert Louis Stevenson, author of Treasure Island, The Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde, and the 1894 essay “The Philosophy of Umbrellas,” could tell a lot about a person based on what they held over their heads when it was raining:
A mendacious (which means, if you’re like me and don’t know the definition of that word, “lying”) umbrella is a sign of great moral degradation. Hypocrisy naturally shelters itself below a silk; while the fast youth goes to visit his religious friends armed with the decent and reputable gingham. May it not be said of the bearers of these inappropriate umbrellas that they go about the streets “with a lie in their right hand”?
And my favorite:
- In its July 1859 issue, Scientific American rallied against a wicked game that made both the mind and body weaker—chess:
A pernicious excitement to learn and play chess has spread all over the country, and numerous clubs for practicing this game have been formed in cities and villages…chess is a mere amusement of a very inferior character, which robs the mind of valuable time that might be devoted to nobler acquirements, while it affords no benefit whatever to the body. Chess has acquired a high reputation as being a means to discipline the mind, but persons engaged in sedentary occupations should never practice this cheerless game; they require out-door exercises–not this sort of mental gladiatorship.
The current “younger generation,” no matter what it is up to, is not the problem. The fast-pasted world spinning perpetually all around us, social media, the internet—these are not the problem. The powers that be and what they advocate and instigate and propagate and mandate and itinerate are not the problem. These things have always been, and will likely always be, present. Just take a look at history.
The more I look at hope vs. hopelessness, I can see where I have always believed that outside circumstances weigh the heaviest to tip the balance in the decision on whether to be hopeful or not. Think of the classic line: “The situation seemed hopeless.” But what if hope has nothing to do with the situation, with outside circumstances?
Even out of something so horrific as the Holocaust, come stories from survivors of how love and kindness and humor among the prisoners (and sometimes even from the guards) fostered hope, and how that hope helped them preserve basic human dignity, gave them a reason to keep going, gave them a reason to believe that people really are basically good, even as there was so much horror around them.
So, what did I say to my former co-worker when he visited me that day? I waited patiently while he ranted.
Then… I smiled at him. And as gently as I could I said, “I must respectfully disagree with you. I have such high hopes and trust in the younger generations. I see my beautiful, funny, intelligent daughter in all of them. And I trust her. So, therefore, I trust them. I think they, living in such a global atmosphere, are gonna be the ones to finally unite and heal the world. I have complete faith and trust in them. What I see of them, gives me hope for a much better future on this planet.”
So it is almost the first Sunday of Advent (of which I am not a fan, by the way, as Advent, in the admittedly limited research I’ve done on it, seems to be all about fasting and penitence, and getting rid of my “sins” (which I don’t even believe in) in preparation for “the coming”—either the first coming, the birth of Jesus—or the second coming, when he returns to physical form on Earth, depending on which tradition of Advent you choose to believe in and follow—and some include both). And it is the Sunday of hope. On this day of hope, I offer this thought.
What if hope—hope for myself, hope for you, for democracy, for freedom, for fairness, for the planet, for humanity, for equality, hope that we are not somehow going to pollute ourselves out of existence, hope that we might one day once again have a Broncos team that makes the playoffs—what if hope comes from within and is not influenced by, or subject to, all the “corruptions” and situations outside of me?
What if hope comes from trusting in the goodness in everyone—especially the younger generation, trusting that they, like we were, are smarter and better and healthier than the ones that came before? What if I trust so strongly in the goodness and trustworthiness inside myself, and inside of those around me, that I know FOR SURE that everything will, somehow, be okay, that goodness will prevail? That I really will, not only survive, but that I will thrive, WE will thrive—as individual persons, as a city, as a country, as a world? What if I hold the key to love and hope, as the song says, all in my trembling hand?
Choosing hope is a blind choice, isn’t it? Choosing hope takes faith. And despite all that, what if I simply choose it anyway? And if I can’t reach and find and grasp hope yet (and believe me, I’ve been to that mean roadhouse many a time—most recently the last 11 months of 2019!), what if I employ a friend’s old trick? What if I say to myself, “I’m willing to be willing to have faith”?
I am willing to be willing to have faith.