Reflections on ‘Love Written on our Heart’ from Jeremiah plus St Patrick

Eagle Poem — Joy Harjo (excerpt)
… Circles of motion.
Like eagle that Sunday morning … Circled in blue sky
In wind, swept our hearts clean
With sacred wings.
We see you, see ourselves and know
That we must take the utmost care
And kindness in all things.
Breathe in, knowing we are made of
All this, and breathe, knowing
We are truly blessed because we
Were born, and die soon within a
True circle of motion,
Like eagle rounding out the morning
Inside us.
We pray that it will be done
In beauty.
In beauty.

Of Love Written On (and In) Our Hearts

I looked in temples, churches, and mosques. But I found the Divine within my heart. — attributed to Rumi

In this here place, we flesh; flesh that weeps, laughs; flesh that dances on bare feet in grass. Love it. Love it hard. Yonder they do not love your flesh … You got to love it, you! … love it, love it and the beat and beating heart, love that too. More than eyes or feet. More than lungs that have yet to draw free air … hear me now, love your heart. For this is the prize.— Toni Morrison, Beloved

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Reflections from Psalm 139 & MLK Weekend: Being Human

Pink Moon — the Pond (excerpt) — Mary Oliver

… You walk down to the shore.
Your coming stills them,
but little by little the silence lifts
until song is everywhere
and your soul rises from your bones
and strides out over the water.
It is a crazy thing to do —
for no one can live like that,
floating around in the darkness
over the gauzy water.
Left on the shore your bones
keep shouting come back!
But your soul won’t listen;
in the distance it is unfolding
like a pair of wings, it is sparking
like hot wires.  So,
like a good friend,
you decide to follow.
You step off the shore
and plummet to your knees …
and now you are caught …
And that’s when it happens —
you see everything
through their eyes,
their joy, their necessity;
… And that’s when you know
you will live whether you will or not,
one way or another,
because everything is everything else,
one long muscle.
It’s no more mysterious than that.
So you relax, you don’t fight it anymore,
… in the moonlight, as it says
yes.

On Being Human

I wish I could show you, when you are lonely or in darkness, the astonishing Light of your own Being. — Hafiz

Challenging the meaning of life is the truest expression of being human. — Victor Frankl

Our existence was for the white man’s comfort and well-being; we had to accept being deprived of just being human. — Rosa Parks

Who am I? They mock me, these lonely questions of mine. Whoever I am, thou knowest, O [God], I am thine. — Deitrich Bonhoeffer

We have a tendency to think in terms of doing and not in terms of being. … Our time is first of all for us to be. To be what? To be alive, to be peaceful, to be joyful, to be loving. ― Thich Nhat Hanh, The Art of Living

You’ve got to keep asserting the complexity and the originality of life, and the multiplicity of it, and the facets of it. This is about being a complex human being in the world, not about finding a villain. This is no time for anything else than the best that you’ve got. ― Toni Morrison

Well, there is good news, and that is why they call it the gospel. The news is not that we are worse than we think, it is that we are better than we think, and better than we deserve to be. Why? Because at the very bottom of the whole enterprise is the indisputable fact that we are created, made, formed, invented, patented in the image of goodness itself … People … cannot take away from you the fact that you are a child of God and bear the impression of God in your very soul. — Peter Gomes

More than one writer calls Psalm 139 a creation psalm, but not one about the vast mysteries of the heavens and earth or even the marvelous workings of nature around us. This creation is God’s own ongoing work in bringing the human person to fullness of life, unwrapping the mystery of us and loving us all the while. — Kathryn Matthews

Just Imagine

Imagination opens up possibility, but sometimes we do not dare to imagine something as beautiful as God. — Nanette Sawyer, (in The Hyphenateds)

We live in a world where bad stories are told, stories that teach us life doesn’t mean anything and that humanity has no great purpose. It’s a good calling, then, to speak a better story. How brightly a better story shines. How easily the world looks to it in wonder. How grateful we are to hear these stories, and how happy it makes us to repeat them. — Donald Miller, A Million Miles in a Thousand Years: What I Learned While Editing My Life

What a stunning vocation for the church, to stand free and hope-filled in a world gone fearful – and to think, imagine, dream, vision a future that God will yet enact. — Walter Brueggemann

From wonder into wonder existence opens. — Lao Tzu

From every mountainside, let freedom ring. When we let freedom ring, when we let it ring from every village and every hamlet, from every state and every city, we will be able to speed up that day when all of God’s children, black men and white men, Jews and Gentiles, Protestants and Catholics, will be able to join hands and sing in the words of the old Negro spiritual, ‘Free at last! Free at last! Thank God Almighty, we are free at last!’ — Martin Luther King Jr., ‘I Have a Dream’ speech

On this day we commemorate Dr. King’s great dream of a vibrant, multiracial nation united in justice, peace and reconciliation; a nation that has a place at the table for children of every race and room at the inn for every needy child. We are called on this holiday, not merely to honor, but to celebrate the values of equality, tolerance and interracial sister and brotherhood he so compellingly expressed in his great dream for America. — Coretta Scott King

Commentary about the significance of this holiday from New York Times contributor Chris Lebron: What, To the Black American, Is Martin Luther King Jr. Day?

Imagine — John Lennon
Imagine there’s no heaven
It’s easy if you try
No hell below us
Above us only skyImagine all the people living for today
Imagine there’s no countries
It isn’t hard to do
Nothing to kill or die for
And no religion too
Imagine all the people living life in peace, you
You may say I’m a dreamer
But I’m not the only one
I hope some day you’ll join us
And the world will be as one
Imagine no possessions
I wonder if you can
No need for greed or hunger
A brotherhood of man
Imagine all the people sharing all the world, you
You may say I’m a dreamer
But I’m not the only one
I hope some day you’ll join us
And the world will be as one

Meditations on themes of Advent week 4: Love

Below we offer the 8 categories of love as understood through a Greek lens: eros (erotic love), philia (friendship), agape (universal love), ludus (playful love), storge (family-kinship love), philautia (healthy self-love), mania (obsessive love), pragma (mature, enduring love). From which forms of love do you draw your strength and connection?

All You Need Is Love — Beatles lyrics

All You Need Is Love
Love, love, love … Love, love, love … Love, love, love

There’s nothing you can do that can’t be done
Nothing you can sing that can’t be sung
Nothing you can say but you can learn how to play the game
It’s easy
Nothing you can make that can’t be made
No one you can save that can’t be saved
Nothing you can do but you can learn how to be you in time
It’s easy
All you need is love … All you need is love
All you need is love, love … Love is all you need
Love, love, love … Love, love, love … Love, love, love
Nothing you can know that isn’t known
Nothing you can see that isn’t shown
Nowhere you can be that isn’t where you’re meant to be
It’s easy
All you need is love … All you need is love
All you need is love, love … Love is all you need …

PHILIA
Friendship … considered a love between equals. — Mateo Sol

You don’t love someone because they’re perfect, you love them in spite of the fact that they’re not. ― Jodi Picoult, My Sister’s Keeper

Friends show their love in times of trouble, not in happiness. —Euripides

We sometimes choose the most locked up, dark versions of the story, but what a good friend does is turn on the lights, open the window, and remind us that there are a whole lot of ways to tell the same story. ― Shauna Niequist, Bittersweet

… friendship is grounded in a feeling that you know exactly who will be there for you when you need something, no matter what or when. — Simon Sinek

One of the most beautiful qualities of true friendship is to understand and to be understood. — Lucius Annaeus Seneca

Love is the only force capable of transforming an enemy into a friend. — Martin Luther King, Jr.

Don’t walk behind me; I may not lead. Don’t walk in front of me; I may not follow. Just walk beside me and be my friend. — Albert Camus

There’s a kinship among men who have sat by a dying fire and measured the worth of their life by it. ― William Golding, The Spire

There is on the earth no institution which Friendship has established; it is not taught by any religion; no scripture contains its maxims. It has no temple nor even a solitary column … However, out fates at least are social. ― Henry David Thoreau, Walden and Other Writings

To be with old friends is very warming and comforting. — Ian Ziering

In the outworks of our lives, we were almost strangers, but we shared a certain outlook on human life and human destiny, which, from the very first, made a bond of extreme strength . . . At our very first meeting, we talked with continually increasing intimacy. We seemed to sink through layer after layer of what was superficial, till gradually both reached the central fire … ― Bertrand Russell, Portraits From Memory and Other Essays

EROS
Eros is sexual or passionate love, and is the type most akin to our modern construct of romantic love. Neel Burton, Psychology Today

The Greeks, it will be recalled, regarded Eros, the god of love, as the eldest of the gods; but also as the youngest, born fresh and dewy-eyed in every living heart. — Joseph Campbell

Eros will have naked bodies; friendship naked personalities. — C.S. Lewis

Eros is an issue of boundaries. He exists because certain boundaries do. In the interval between reach and grasp, between glance and counterglance, between ‘I love you’ and ‘I love you too,’ the absent presence of desire comes alive. But the boundaries of time and glance and I love you are only aftershocks of the main, inevitable boundary that creates Eros: the boundary of flesh and self between you and me. And it is only, suddenly, at the moment when I would dissolve that boundary, I realize I never can.  — Anne Carson

Eros seizes and shakes my very soul like the wind on the mountain shaking ancient oaks. — Sappho

You can’t deny Eros. Eros will strike, like lightning. Our human defenses are frail, ludicrous. Like plasterboard houses in a hurricane. Your triumph is in perfect submission. And the god of Eros will flow through you, as Lawrence says, in the ‘perfect obliteration of blood consciousness. — Joyce Carol Oates

LUDUS
Ludus is playful or uncommitted love. Neel Burton, Psychology Today

To be running breathlessly, but not yet arrived, is itself delightful, a suspended moment of living hope. — Anne Carson

Don’t ever think I fell for you, or fell over you. I didn’t fall in love, I rose in it. ― Toni Morrison, Jazz

he placed his hands
on my mind
before reaching
for my waist
my hips
or my lips
he didn’t call me
beautiful first
he called me
exquisite
– how he touches me
Rupi Kaur, Milk and Honey

 

PRAGMA
Pragma is a love that has aged, matured and developed over time. It is beyond the physical, it has transcended the casual, and it is a unique harmony that has formed over time. — Mateo Sol

 

To fall in love is easy, even to remain in it is not difficult; our human loneliness is cause enough. But it is a hard quest worth making to find a comrade through whose steady presence one becomes steadily the person one desires to be. — Anna Strong

Love is friendship that has caught fire. It is quiet understanding, mutual confidence, sharing and forgiving. It is loyalty through good and bad times. It settles for less than perfection and makes allowances for human weaknesses. — Ann Landers

She is a friend of my mind. She gather me, man. The pieces I am, she gather them and give them back to me in all the right order. ― Toni Morrison, Beloved

Being deeply loved by someone gives you strength, while loving someone deeply gives you courage. — Lao-Tzu

A single rose can be my garden… a single friend, my world. — Leo Buscaglia

The best love is the kind that awakens the soul; that makes us reach for more, that plants the fire in our hearts and brings peace to our minds. That’s what I hope to give you forever. — Nicholas Sparks, The Notebook 

Love is not a mold that makes two people the same person. Love is the dream that enables both of us to be our own best person—together. Love knows no one can fill up in us what we lack in ourselves. But coming to live what we know about love for the sake of others, as well as for our self, is the one thing that can possibly stop the restless sleep that comes with loneliness. — Joan Chittister, Between the Dark and the Daylight

STORGE
Storge is primarily to do with kinship and familiarity. Storge is a natural form of affection that often flows between parents and … children … can even be found among childhood friends … — Mateo Sol
I thank God that I’m a product of my parents. That they infected me with their intelligence and energy for life, with their thirst for knowledge and their love. — Shakira
Making the decision to have a child is momentous. It is to decide forever to have your heart go walking around outside your body. — Elizabeth Stone

It’s a funny thing about mothers and fathers. Even when their own child is the most disgusting little blister you could ever imagine, they still think that he or she is wonderful. — Roald Dahl

Without warning he had become witness to something that stretched back through the eons, ties both elastic and enduring, surpassing death, surpassing life. She was his child. It was as simple as that and that complex. ― Kim Harrison, Into the Woods

You don’t have to have anything in common with people you’ve known since you were five. With old friends, you’ve got your whole life in common. — Lyle Lovett

So it was in Botswana, almost everywhere; ties of kinship, no matter how attenuated by distance or time, linked one person to another, weaving across the country a human blanket of love and community. And in the fibres of that blanket there were threads of obligation that meant that one could not ignore the claims of others. Nobody should starve; nobody should feel that they were outsiders; nobody should be alone in their sadness. ― Alexander McCall Smith

Cousins by chance, friends by choice.  — Proverb

MANIA
Obsessive Love. … that leads a partner into a type of madness and obsessiveness. It occurs when there is an imbalance. — Mateo Sol

I must get my soul back from you; I am killing my flesh without it. ― Sylvia Plath, The Unabridged Journals of Sylvia Plath

Lolita, light of my life, fire of my loins. My sin, my soul. ― Vladimir Nabokov, Lolita

I love you. I hate you. I like you. I hate you. I love you. I think you’re stupid. I think you’re a loser. I think you’re wonderful. I want to be with you. I don’t want to be with you. I would never date you. I hate you. I love you…..I think the madness started the moment we met and you shook my hand. Did you have a disease or something? ― Shannon L. Alder

AGAPE
Agape is universal love, such as the love for strangers, nature, or God. —Neel Burton, Psychology Today

Do love. Don’t just think love, say love, have faith in love, or believe that God is love. Give up the idea that your ideas alone can save you. If you know the right words, then bring those words to life by giving them your own flesh. Put them into practice. Do love, and you will live. — Barbara Brown Taylor

Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that. — Martin Luther King Jr.

Love is or it ain’t. Thin love ain’t love at all. ― Toni Morrison, Beloved 

When the power of love overcomes the love of power, the world will know peace.― Jimi Hendrix

The greatest happiness of life is the conviction that we are loved; loved for ourselves, or rather, loved in spite of ourselves. — Victor Hugo

“Not all of us can do great things.  But we can do small things with great love.” AND “I believe God loves the world through us—through you and me.” — St Mother Teresa 

There are no strangers here; Only friends you haven’t yet met. — William Butler Yeats

Many can give money to those in need, but to personally serve the needy readily, out of love, and in a fraternal spirit, requires a truly great soul. — Saint John Chrysostom

Love is not really an action that you do. Love is what and who you are, in your deepest essence. Love is a place that already exists inside of you, but is also greater than you. That’s the paradox. It’s within you and yet beyond you. This creates a sense of abundance and more-than-enoughness, which is precisely the satisfaction and deep peace of the True Self. You know you’ve found a well that will never go dry, as Jesus says (see John 4:13-14). Your True Self, God’s Love in you, cannot be exhausted. — Richard Rohr

PHILAUTIA
Self Love: The Greeks understood that in order to care for others, we must first learn to care for ourselves. This form of self-love is not unhealthy vanity and self-obsession …Instead, philautia is self-love in its healthiest form. It shares the Buddhist philosophy of “self-compassion”. — Mateo Sol

All friendly feelings for others are an extension of a man’s feelings for himself. — Aristotle

How you love yourself is how you teach others to love you. ― Rupi Kaur, Milk and Honey

It’s all about falling in love with yourself and sharing that love with someone who appreciates you, rather than looking for love to compensate for a self love deficit. ― Eartha Kitt

The most terrifying thing is to accept oneself completely. ― Carl Jung

The first step is to come home to ourselves. You don’t need to become a Buddha. You need to become yourself. — Thich Nhat Hanh


 LOVE: A Listening Heart
— Joan Chittister

There is a magnet in a seeker’s heart whose true north is God. It bends toward the Voice of God with the ear of the heart and, like sunflowers in the sun, turns all of life toward the living of the Word.

This listening heart is pure of pride and free of arrogance. It seeks wisdom—
everywhere, at all times— and knows wisdom by the way it echoes the call of the scriptures.

The compass for God implanted in the seeker’s heart stretches toward truth and signals the way to justice.

It is attuned to the cries of the poor and oppressed with a timbre that allows no interruption, no smothering of the Voice of God on their behalf.

These seekers hear the voice of God in the cry of the poor and oppressed, and they “immediately put aside their own concerns” and follow God’s call in their actions.

Monastics cling to the community in order to know a wisdom not their own, to discover the tradition on which they stand, to heed the Word of God together with one heart and one mind—embedded in many shapes and forms, and brought to the fullness of God’s will for them in mind, heart, and soul.

They give themselves to mutual obedience in order to create a common voice— a communal voice— that can be heard above the clamors of self centeredness. And they do the hard work of community-living and decision-making together, “not cringing or sluggish or half-hearted, but free from any grumbling or any reaction of unwillingness”— so that none of the actions taken together are done in vain, so that the Reign of God can come sooner because we have been here.

In a Monastery of the Heart, Benedictine listening honors the function of leadership to point us in the direction of truth, but knows that neither dependence nor license nor authoritarianism are a valid substitute for communal discernment, for seeking truth in the light of one another’s wisdom.

Communal discernment is a holy hearing of prophetic voices among us. It comes out of listening to others and responding to them in the name of God, so that as a community we can move forward together, one heart at a time.

Benedictine spirituality requires careful listening and responding to the Word of God, to the call of the Jesus who leads us, and to the call of the community that is the foundation of our spiritual life.

It is not an obedience that rests on blessed ignorance, or infantile dependence, or reckless irresponsibility, or military authoritarianism, or blind submission in the name of holiness.

A truly listening heart knows that we lose the chance for truth
if we give another—any other— either too much, or too little, control over the conscience that is meant to be ours alone.

And yet, at the same time, mutual obedience, real obedience, holy listening forever seeks the spiritual dialogue holy wisdom demands.

In a Monastery of the Heart, it is the acceptance of wisdom not our own that asks of us the spiritual maturity that listens first and always to the Word of God— and allows the Word to be the testing ground of every other demand made on our lives.

It is obedience to the greater law of love.

An authentic claim to obedience does not deny another person’s independence and autonomy of thought. On the contrary, it hones the seeker for the sake of the growth of the community and the spreading of the Word.

This listening with the heart to the insights of another is not the obedience of children, or soldiers, or servants, or minions. It is the obedience given to a lover, because of love alone.


“As I began to love myself I found that anguish and emotional suffering are only warning signs that I was living against my own truth. Today, I know, this is “AUTHENTICITY”.

As I began to love myself I understood how much it can offend somebody if I try to force my desires on this person, even though I knew the time was not right and the person was not ready for it, and even though this person was me. Today I call it “RESPECT”.

As I began to love myself I stopped craving for a different life, and I could see that everything that surrounded me was inviting me to grow. Today I call it “MATURITY”.

As I began to love myself I understood that at any circumstance, I am in the right place at the right time, and everything happens at the exactly right moment. So I could be calm. Today I call it “SELF-CONFIDENCE”.

As I began to love myself I quit stealing my own time, and I stopped designing huge projects for the future. Today, I only do what brings me joy and happiness, things I love to do and that make my heart cheer, and I do them in my own way and in my own rhythm. Today I call it “SIMPLICITY”.

As I began to love myself I freed myself of anything that is no good for my health – food, people, things, situations, and everything that drew me down and away from myself. At first I called this attitude a healthy egoism. Today I know it is “LOVE OF ONESELF”.

As I began to love myself I quit trying to always be right, and ever since I was wrong less of the time. Today I discovered that is “MODESTY”.

As I began to love myself I refused to go on living in the past and worrying about the future. Now, I only live for the moment, where everything is happening. Today I live each day, day by day, and I call it “FULFILLMENT”.

As I began to love myself I recognized that my mind can disturb me and it can make me sick. But as I connected it to my heart, my mind became a valuable ally. Today I call this connection “WISDOM OF THE HEART”

― Charlie Chaplin

Reflections on the first week of Advent: Hope

Advent comes with yearning. The first week of Advent focuses on hope. When is hope helpful and tangible, grounded in the here-and-now as well as in what comes next? When does hope focus too much on the future and remove us from the present?

Note: Check out this ‘Guide to Grounded Hope’ from Option B.
Pragmatic approach to the practice of developing hope.

Only Hope
— song by Switchfoot, performed by Mandy Moore

There’s a song that’s inside of my soul
It’s the one that I’ve tried to write over and over again
I’m awake in the infinite cold
But you sing to me over and over and over again

So I lay my head back down
And I lift my hands
And pray to be only yours
I pray to be only yours
I know now you’re my only hope

Sing to me the song of the stars
Of your galaxy dancing
And laughing and laughing again
When it feels like my dreams are so far
Sing to me of the plans that you have for me over again

So I lay my head back down
And I lift my hands and pray
To be only yours
I pray to be only yours
I know now you’re my only hope

I give you my destiny
I’m giving you all of me
I want your symphony
Singing in all that I am
At the top of my lungs I’m giving it back

So I lay my head back down
And I lift my hands and pray
To be only yours
I pray to be only yours
I pray to be only yours
I know now you’re my only hope


Advent Means:
Expectation, Yearning, Anticipation, Preparation, Waiting …
Life in a prison cell may well be compared to Advent; one waits, hopes, and does this, that, or the other–things that are of no real consequence–the door is shut, and can be opened only from the outside. — Dietrech Bonhoeffer, Letters from Prison–November 21, 1943It seems to me we can never give up longing and wishing while we are thoroughly alive. There are certain things we feel to be beautiful and good, and we must hunger after them. — George Eliot

Prayer is not asking. It is a longing of the soul. It is daily admission of one’s weakness. It is better in prayer to have a heart without words than words without a heart. — Mahatma Gandhi

Every year we celebrate the holy season of Advent, O God. Every year we pray those beautiful prayers of longing and waiting, and sing those lovely songs of hope and promise. — Karl Rahner

This Advent, I want to warm myself by the fire of hope! — Christopher West

Once again we mark the arrival of Advent. This holy season trumpets God’s extravagant love for us, a love beyond reckoning. Into our beautiful yet wounded world comes Emmanuel, God-with-us, carrying the promise of fresh hope to enliven our hearts. No matter how broken or seemingly hopeless our world may sometimes seem, the Advent messages are rich with joyous expectation and longing, insisting that God can and does bring forth life where none seems possible. ― Sr. Chris Koellhoffer IHM, Pope Francis: Living Advent With Joy and Peace: Encouragement and Prayers


On Hope

Hope begins in the dark, the stubborn hope that if you just show up and try to do the right thing, the dawn will come. You wait and watch and work: you don’t give up. — Anne Lamott

We must accept finite disappointment, but never lose infinite hope. — Martin Luther King Jr.

Making them think the next sunrise would be worth it; that another stroke of time would do it at last. — Toni Morrison, Beloved

I believe that imagination is stronger than knowledge. That myth is more potent than history. That dreams are more powerful than facts. That hope always triumphs over experience. That laughter is the only cure for grief. And I believe that love is stronger than death. — Robert Fulghum

Optimism is the faith that leads to achievement. Nothing can be done without hope and confidence. — Helen Keller

To announce, however, that the Liberator is sitting among the poor and that the wounds are signs of hope and that today is the day of liberation, is a step very few can take. But this is exactly the announcement of the wounded healer: ‘The master is coming–not tomorrow, but today, not next year, but this year, not after all our misery is passed, but in the middle of it, not in another place but right here where we are standing.’ — Henri J. M. Nouwen, The Wounded Healer

Dear Child of God, I write these words because we all experience sadness, we all come at times to despair, and we all lose hope that the suffering in our lives and in the world will ever end. I want to share with you my faith and my understanding that this suffering can be transformed and redeemed. There is no such thing as a totally hopeless case. Our God is an expert at dealing with chaos, with brokenness, with all the worst that we can imagine. God created order out of disorder, cosmos out of chaos, and God can do so always, can do so now–in our personal lives and in our lives as nations, globally. … Indeed, God is transforming the world now–through us–because God loves us. ― Desmond Tutu, God Has a Dream: A Vision of Hope for Our Time

Our time has a great need for hope! The young can no longer be robbed of hope. … The young need hope. It is necessary to offer concrete signs of hope to those who experience pain and suffering. Social organizations and associations, as well as individuals who strive towards acceptance and sharing, are generators of hope. Therefore, I exhort your Christian communities to be agents of solidarity, never to stop before those who, for mere personal interest, sow self-centeredness, violence and injustice. Oppose yourselves to the culture of death and be witnesses to the Gospel of life! May the light of God’s Word and the support of the Holy Spirit help you to look with new and willing eyes upon the new forms of poverty that drive so many young people and families to desperation. — Pope Francis, Audience with Italian diocese of Cassano all’Jonio in the region of Calabria, 2015


Opposing Thoughts on Hope

We hold onto hope and it robs us of the present moment. If hope and fear are two different sides of the same coin, so are hopelessness and confidence. If we’re willing to give up hope that insecurity and pain can be exterminated, then we can have the courage to relax with the groundlessness of our situation. — Pema Chodron, When Things Fall Apart

Hope is important, because it can make the present moment less difficult to bear. If we believe that tomorrow will be better, we can bear a hardship today. But that is the most that hope can do for us – to make some hardship lighter. When I think deeply about the nature of hope, I see something tragic. Since we cling to our hope in the future, we do not focus our energies and capabilities on the present moment. We use hope to believe something better will happen in the future, that we will arrive at peace, or the Kingdom of God. Hope becomes a kind of obstacle. If you can refrain from hoping, you can bring yourself entirely into the present moment and discover the joy that is already here. — Thich Nhat Hahn, Peace Is Every Step


Prisoners of Hope — Omid Safi, Columnist (from On Being with Krista Tippett)

One of my favorite verses in the Bible is a line in Zechariah, often overlooked:

Return to your fortress,
O you prisoners of hope;
even now I announce that I will restore twice as much to you.

Hope is powerful. Hope is different. It is more, much more, than mere optimism.

Optimism runs deep in the American consciousness. Many have commented on the inherent optimism of the American people. But optimism is….cheap.

Optimism is ultimately about optics, about how we see the world. It’s about seeing the glass half-full.

Hope is different. Hope is a cosmic quality. Hope is rooted in faith, with feet mired in suffering. Hope is a heart in agony that yearns for liberation.

As Desmond Tutu says, “Hope is being able to see that there is light despite all of the darkness.” For hope to exist, there has to be darkness. For hope to be real, there has to be a prison. And we, in the prison.

Return to your fortress,
O you prisoners of hope.

Hope is tied not to how we see the world, but to the faith we have in how the world actually is and will be.

Hope is not about seeing the world, but about the heart behind the eye, the soul that sees.

We hope that light will, someday, triumph over darkness, that love will gain victory over hatred, that compassion will gain over apathy.

We need to hope, to bear the darkness.

Return to your fortress.
O you prisoners of hope

Hope is not a choice. Hope is not optics. Hope is not mere politics. We are wrapped up in hope. Caught up in hope. Imprisoned in hope.

Return to your fortress.
O you prisoners of hope

We hope in the moral goodness of the universe. We hope in the goodness of God. We hope in the victory of good over evil. We hope, even if we may not get to see the triumph.

Hope is planting a tree, knowing that we will be feeding the warms under the tree’s ground before the tree yields fruit.

Hope, real hope, not cheap optimism, mingles with suffering. Hope, real hope, has nothing Pollyannaish about it.

Hope recognizes the chains around our feet, hope yearns for liberation in the very midst of the prison. Hope sees the rays of light in the depth of the dark night.

Hope is an active act of faith, refusing to surrender.

Return to your fortress
O you prisoners of hope

Fortress is not a zip code. Fortress has no walls and moats. Fortress is a commitment to God and humanity, to the poor and to beauty. It is in this fortress that we, the prisoners, find hope.

We hope because without hope life would not be bearable.

Go back to your fortress,
O you prisoners of hope.

In the “go back”, I hear the voice of Martin. “Go back to Mississippi, go back to Alabama, go back to South Carolina, go back to Georgia, go back to Louisiana.”

Go back to your fortress,
O you prisoners of hope.

“Go back to the slums and ghettos of our northern cities, knowing that somehow this situation can and will be changed.

Let us not wallow in the valley of despair, I say to you today, my friends.”

Go back to your fortress,
O you prisoners of hope.

Today, we say,

Go back to your fortress,
O you prisoners of hope.

Go back to Ferguson. Go back to Staten Island. Go back to South Carolina. Go back to Chapel Hill. Go back to Syria. Go back to Palestine.

Let us not wallow in the valley of despair. Let us climb on ahead to the promised land of justice.

This is our hope. For us, the prisoners of hope.

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