a new hope (in the quiet, not in silence)

What a deceptive title.

One, because this post has nothing to do with Star Wars, at least not directly.
Two, because the hope I’m thinking of isn’t new in the conventional sense.

It’s more of a renewable hope. Or a continually-renewed hope.

I sit here in the final minutes of 2016 (it’s literally 5 minutes ’til midnight), typing on my laptop while the TV regales me with the blatherings of announcers, the poor enunciations of music artists, and the weird ramblings of a woman with green glitter lipstick worthy of Panem’s Capitol. I think of the illusory and foundationally meaningless construct of calendars and years’-ends. We humans get in such a tizzy at this time every year, never mind that flipping a calendar page from one month to the next or one year to the next has absolutely no connection to actual, tangible change.

I set my laptop aside to check windows for fireworks as 2017 A.D. rolls through the door.

The fireworks are audible from inside my living room, but I can’t see them from any of the windows. A quick call to my parents — one I make every year on January 1st at approximately 00:05am — sends love reverberating through the atmosphere. A good start to the new iteration of this particular human construct.

My husband went to bed at 22:35 (that’s 10:35pm); my four-year-old daughter trundled off to sleep at her usual time of 20:00. None of our friends were partying this year.

No one texts me.

This is probably the first time in 20 years that I’ve rung in the “new year” completely alone.

Shouldn’t this make me melancholy? I don’t know if it should (don’t should on me!), but it doesn’t. It’s kind of cozy, really. Until the timer turned them off a few minutes ago, the Christmas tree lights splashed a warm glow across my typing fingers; I’ve turned off the TV, so all is quiet, if not silence; I can hear my husband snoring, my clock ticking, my fridge chuckling. Sporadic fireworks still grace the night behind me, on the other side of the window.

I don’t type in silence, but I type in the quiet.

Ah. There’s the first ambulance siren of the year.

Peace. Peace for this year. Grace and mercy to those who aren’t starting 2017 in peace.

The clock is ticking.

The cat is sleeping under the darkened Christmas tree.

The year 2016 A.D. held so much grief.

Deaths of people I’ve long admired from great distances.
Death of confidence in the basic decency of humanity.
Death to idealism and optimism and other beneficent -isms — all of which are intimately connected with fellow humans-being.

I still like to think of myself as Eternal Optimist Woman, even though that belief has been sorely tried this year. I think the EOW has disintegrated into ash for the time being; I can only hope that, like the phoenix, she will rise from the ashes again.

She’s done it before.

And there’s that word again.

Hope.

I’ve pondered again and again whether or not I should wax political about the goings-on in the United States of America in 2016. And if I decided to wax that way, just what could or would or should (!) I say? But the emotional energy required take for such a blopgost (yes, blopgost) would be an expense I cannot afford.

The Babadook still lives in my basement*. He demands my intensive self-care, which includes not feeding my strength into something that won’t benefit anyone.

(*If this reference makes no sense to you, I recommend watching the movie The Babadook, which is basically a metaphor for depression.)

I will say this, since it relates to hope: I don’t hope for anything Good to come from the USA’s current president-elect. “I hope for no hope from him…poor clown,” as Amalthea told Molly Grue. (Although I know I’m doing Schmendrick an injustice; still, allow me my nerdy references, would you?) He has proven himself ridicule-worthy, dangerously unbalanced, selfish, self-absorbed, greedy, incapable of empathy, ableist, racist, misogynist, bigoted, prejudiced, childish, fiendish, and just plain gross.

If I were to put him into a novel, readers would mock me for writing such a parody of a villain. He’s so much Chaotic Evil as to be unbelievable. No one would read him.

(“He lied in every word, that hoary [emotional-]cripple with malicious eyes….”)

I cannot describe to you how much it cost me to write the preceding two paragraphs. I feel completely exhausted.

But.

The point is, I have no hope for the next year regarding the president-elect of the USA, his cabinet, his advisors, his family, his decisions, his intentions, his cronies, his sycophants. I have so little hope regarding any of those, it has passed zero and dropped squarely onto the negative side of the axis. And on the negative side, my hope moves ever more rapidly away from zero.

Thank God — literally — that the Reality which gives me hope is no human construct or human system.

When I was 19, my atheist friend said to me, “Courtney, I don’t care if you believe in God or not — but if you’re going to believe, you have to be able to tell me why.”

I had no answer for him then.

Nowadays, I have answers squooshing out of my ears, but that’s another tale and shall be told another time. 😉

My thought tonight is that because of my faith and in spite of the Chaotic Evil that has created a safe place for so many other evils to reveal themselves, I still have hope.

A renewable hope.

A continually-renewed hope.

What if we humans had a leader who cared? Who empathized? Who accepted us all, every one? Who wanted to build something beautiful and glorious and beneficial, instead of promising dread and fear and harm? What if we had a leader who actually did represent us and count us in and protect us and serve us and live for us and die for us? What if we had a leader truly “for the people” and “by the people”?

What if we humans had a leader truly made of Love?

I know of so many people who profess to follow this man named Jesus of Nazareth, the Anointed One (that’s what mashiach–“Messiah” and “Christ” mean) — and yet, they are so terrified of someone misleading “their country,” they actually believe that a human construct could “close the doors” of their churches.

(Fellow believers, how could you vote Chaotic Evil when you claim to follow the Perfect Lawfree Good, which never restricts freedom?)

The Good News is that no matter what any man-made system decides or does, the house being built by this Jesus of Nazareth will never close.

After all, He is a carpenter. He knows how to build a house with uncloseable doors.

But it’s not about the closing of doors. It’s about the closing of minds, the closing of hearts, the tearing-down of the differently-opinioned, the shutting-down of empathy, the removal of “with” from compassion (which leaves only passion, and of an undirected, malignant sort).

(Compassion, in case you didn’t know, means “suffering-with”; to have compassion on someone means to enter into their suffering, to become part of it and to make it part of you.)

And this closing off and shutting down is coming from those who profess to own the One who personifie(d)s opening up, feeling with, suffering with, building up, welcoming in.

My so-called fellow Jesus-followers rejected his example and his indwelling Lifespirit.

That, in my very subjective view, is the real tragedy of 2016 A.D., for it leads to the suffering of humanity, most especially including the impoverished and the unbelieving.
In regard to so-called Jesus-followers, this felt more like 1016 A.D.

They have forgotten their hope.

They have forgotten that their hope can be “new every morning”

(great is thy faithfulness).

Jesus the Anointed One, Son of God Most High and Head of His Body (the collective of Different Ones [definition of “saints”] in this world) — He is building a house.

His house has nothing to do with physical buildings ornamented with made-up names and stained-glass windows.

His house encompasses the universe itself.

He will build that house with or without those followers of his who happen to name themselves “American” (for you can be sure that *he* didn’t name them that). He will build his house with the people on the street corners, the ones who actually hear his words and listen to them and respond (Matthew 22). He doesn’t care where these people came from; they listen, and they come to him, and he loves them and takes them in.

They take his Hope and they eat it. They chew it. They swallow it whole.

And his Hope has no relation whatsoever to the construct of human politics or calendars.

In the vastness of the universe and the multi-directional eternity of history, human politics are less than a footnote. I’m not sure they’re even mentioned between the covers of the entire book.

I have hope.

Because I’m a stone in a wall that’s going to last forever. I am a stone in Reality.

That Reality behooves and encourages and enables me to feel-with and suffer-with those who feel deeply and suffer. And it’s the kind of suffering-with that leads to action. Compassion leads to getting my hands “dirty.”

I’m okay with that.

His hands were “dirtier” than mine ever can be.

I didn’t intend for this blopgost to turn into such a revelation about my beliefs. I wanted to keep it simple, really. But it just seemed like the words wanted to come out exactly as they did.

There goes the second set of sirens of the New Year.

No one wants to read a sermon first thing on January 1st (at least, I don’t know of anyone who does.)

Also, I’m tired and starting to fade toward sleep. And starting to type in my sleep; I’ve already had to delete two sentences because they made no sense. 😉 So I’ll wrap this up. There really should be some more thoughts here, but I don’t have any.

I’m too tired.

HAPPY NEW YEAR, everypony!

Peace.

Glances That Fall Like Sunshine

Considering that thing I posted yesterday about sarcasm and its morbid relationship to the gouging, ripping, and consuming of flesh, I thought it well that I continue my thoughts in a more uplifting manner today.

NOTE: In comments on yesterday’s post, I assured Josh that not every one of my Blog-Every-Day August posts will be of such a weighty nature. I do intend to indulge in my regular fluff and silliness; it’s just that these weightier things are on my mind right now. Welcome to my thoughts. ; )

But I, yet again, digress.

Delve Greedily and Deep

A few days ago, I came across the following poem excerpt, and it stuck with me:

It is difficult
to get the news
from poems
yet men die miserably every day
for lack
of what is found there.

~William Carlos Williams
in “Asphodel, That Greeny Flower”
1955

Mayhap in the future, I’ll write a whole post about the value of reading poetry, the purpose of poetry, the craft of poetry, and cetera. Believe me, there’s an entire book, nay, an encyclopedia of blogposts one could write on the subject. (Don’t worry, I won’t subject you to that much nerdery. [Or will I? {The plot sickens.}]) But for now, I’ll simply say this:

When a poet utilizes her artistry — when he intentionally and intensively creates a work of beauty and craftsmanship — the resulting work will contain a deep meaning beyond most things that most of us encounter in daily life. These are not soundbytes, flippant remarks, or 140-character snippets. These are words, phrases, and images that must be probed and pondered before their true meaning comes to light.

Williams wrote these words between 1952 and 1955. I’m sure they were accurate then; they’re certainly accurate now. In a world where “the news” is equal to whatever spin a particular media wants us to believe, finding The Truth is next to impossible. And every day, we collectively die a little more on the inside because we can’t (READ: won’t) take the time to set the misery aside, breathe, and delve more deeply to find the true essence of our own reality.

Brighten the Corner Where You Are

As I think of seeking out and discovering The Truth via poetry, I think of two poems in particular. This first one is new to me. Its first stanza makes my heart soar and my spirit rejoice, because there’s so much hope and vibrance in it. The second stanza sobers me, because it’s a reminder of what I wrote yesterday: that I have a responsibility for the words I say.

We are all connected; I believe this without doubt; and since I believe it, I have a responsibility to act on it. One of the ways I must act on it is by “bringing the sunshine.”

But here, I’ll let George Eliot say it better than I can:

 

 

Count That Day Lost

If you sit down at set of sun
And count the acts that you have done,
And, counting, find
One self-denying deed, one word
That eased the heart of him who heard,
One glance most kind
That fell like sunshine where it went —
Then you may count that day well spent.

But if, through all the livelong day,
You’ve cheered no heart, by yea or nay —
If, through it all
You’ve nothing done that you can trace
That brought the sunshine to one face —
No act most small
That helped some soul and nothing cost —
Then count that day as worse than lost.

~ George Eliot

The second poem I’ve thought of is one of my ever-favorites:

What Is Success?

What is success?
To laugh often and much;
To win the respect of intelligent people
and the affection of children;
To earn the appreciation of honest critics
and endure the betrayal of false friends;
To appreciate beauty;
To find the best in others;
To leave the world a bit better, whether by
a healthy child, a garden patch
or a redeemed social condition;
To know even one life has breathed
easier because you have lived;
This is to have succeeded.

~ Ralph Waldo Emerson

All of which I relate back to this:

“Brighten the corner where you are, and you will light the world.”
~ Dean Koontz

“You should be a light for other people. …Do to others what you would want them to do to you.”
~ Jesus of Nazareth

It ain’t about the stuff, y’all.

It’s not about rushing around two days before Christmas.
It’s not about slogging through car-clogged parking lots.
It’s not about plowing through a crowded store to find the best deal.
It’s not about snagging the last one of something off the store shelf.
It’s not about mashing the potatoes right.
It’s not about defrosting the turkey in time.
It’s not about how many different kinds of pie.
It’s not about the ubiquitous fruitcake.
It’s not about the Douglas fir or the Jeffrey Pine.
It’s not about the lights on your front lawn.
It’s not about getting presents.
It’s not about Santa Claus and reindeer.
It’s not about St. Nicholas.
It’s not about the nativity scene.
It’s not about the angels.
It’s not about the number of wise men.
It’s not about Baby Jesus.
It’s not about traditions.
It’s not about religions.
It’s not about the correct seasonal greeting.
It’s not about the agendas.
It’s not about the next new thing.

All of that is just stuff.

This ornament — a dove carrying a heart and an olive branch — hangs on my Christmas tree every year. It reminds me of these truths:

It’s about generosity.
It’s about compassion.
It’s about patience.
It’s about forgiveness.
It’s about kindness.
It’s about joy.
It’s about peace.
It’s about hope.
It’s about love.

It’s about LIFE all year ’round.

Merry Christmas to all, and to all a good night.
Happy Holidays.

Love,
Courtney