So, since last I posted a blog entry at the end of June, I have not been deluged with hope-filled suggestions from my dedicated readers. I hope it is because you are so overcome with energy and successful, meaningful projects that you have not had time to write. But I have been wallowing for weeks in despair. Then a friend recently reminded me of how lucky I have been to have had some good mentors so far in my life.
Years ago, when I was a high school religion teacher, I had a mentor who advised me that when I was faced with a challenge, I should be proactive, be the one to take action and not wait to see what someone else would do to me. Over the years, I’ve dredged up that advice and found, all in all, that it was wise.
Therefore, I have decided to devote three weeks (this is because this morning I resisted the urge to order a guaranteed, three-week, at home yoga course that would give me long, lean arms, a tiny waist that bends without pain and totally toned legs that reach from my armpits to the sacred earth) to recovering some hope. And, because I am someone who loves school, I have decided on two text books.
Starting today, I am reading, at the same time (which is a big deal for memory-challenged me), Jon Meacham’s The Soul of America: The Battle for Our Better Angels (Random House 2018) and Pierre Teilhard de Chardin’s The Divine Milieu (Harper & Row, 1960). And, by doing so, I am determined to find hope. I will find hope.
So, Meacham’s book is a historical argument that our country has survived wrestling matches with our worst angels in the past and managed “to keep the national enterprise alive.” Here’s a sample from what I read this morning:
“Our fate is contingent upon which element -- that of hope or that of fear -- emerges triumphant.”
“To know what has come before is to be armed against despair. If the men and women of the past, with all their flaws and limitations and ambitions and appetites, could press on through ignorance and superstition, racism and sexism, selfishness and greed, to create a freer, stronger nation, then perhaps we, too, can right wrongs and take another step toward that most enchanting and elusive of destinations: a more perfect Union.”
Another of my mentors recently mentioned to me the power and solace she’s found in reading The Divine Milieu, the musings of a Jesuit scientist, philosopher and priest born 137 years ago. This particular edition includes an essay from another Jesuit who knew him. His friend writes that de Chardin was, during his lifetime, “misunderstood,” “condemned to silence” and tormented in ways that threatened to overwhelm him. But, then, there’s this:
“In all that he did, as in all that he taught, there was no bitterness nor disillusioned cynicism, nothing but a constant optimism. Far from railing against the pettiness of men or the chaos of the world, he made it a rule never to assume the presence of evil. And when he was unable to deny the evidence of his eyes, he looked not for the damning but for the saving element in what he saw: a mental attitude that surely, if unexpectedly, provides the only road to truth.”
So, there, that’s day one of my self-imposed, at home, three-week enterprise. Here’s hoping it helps me become leaner, stronger, able to move without pain, in the pursuit of (and, eventually,) in the presence of hope. I will keep you posted.