Having been blessed all my life with largely irrepressible hope, I am always glad to see it when others maintain optimism too, even in the face of difficulties and all the uncertainties of our future.
The March 2014 issue of The Sun carries an interview with author/activist Barbara Kingsolver that was one of the most worthwhile interviews I’ve read in a while. I recently read Kingsolver’s latest book, Flight Behavior, which tells a good story while at the same time letting readers see how climate destabilization is affecting the world. So, I was expecting some eyes-open comments in the interview about the state of the natural world. The interviewer puts it on the line: “…does it ever become irresponsible or painful to speak of hope?”
Kingsolver’s reply: “It’s never irresponsible to speak of hope. It’s irresponsible to give up.” Earlier in the article she admits, “I’m not always optimistic about the fate of the world—especially the natural world—but I’m still hopeful, because hope is a choice you get to renew.”
In my worldview, hope is a choice we not only get to renew; it’s the one choice we must renew on a daily basis.
Today is March 17, so many people are wearing green and celebrating the Irish in them (even if for only one day of the year). For me, the day is to be celebrated for another reason.
My friend Barbara was born on this day in 1950 and passed away last year of breast cancer. I miss her and I’m not alone. She made such a mark on her friends’ lives that I know many miss her. She lived in Colorado, I lived in Washington, and we met in France. In that odd way of blessings, we were strangers who became friends in a foreign place. It was my first trip to Paris and her umpteenth – in fact, she was there to show the city to her nephew – so she took me under her wing and made sure I safely toured too. Returning to our homes, we maintained a correspondence and exchanged packages every December.
So on this St. Patrick’s Day, I wish my friend Barbara the blessings of this poem by Irishman John O’Donohue
May the nourishment of the earth be yours,
may the clarity of light be yours,
may the fluency of the ocean be yours,
may the protection of the ancestors be yours.
We’ll never forget you.
This month’s The Sun includes in its “Sunbeams” this wonderful thought from an unknown author:
“I must do something” always solves more problems than “Something must be done.”
Not only is this a perfect illustration of the difference between active voice and passive voice—a point about which writers are forever being cautioned—but it’s also a useful reminder for everyday spirituality.
When you think about almost any issue (helping the poor, feeding the hungry, protecting the environment, human rights, stopping domestic violence, shopping local, ending child abuse, animal rights, etc.), the voice you choose for thinking about the issue will determine your level of involvement. Saying “Something must be done” may show that you care, at least a little bit, but it assumes that someone else will do what needs to be done while you remain passive, rooting from the sidelines. Saying “I must do something” puts you in the active role and encourages you to think of specific actions you can take to move the issue in the direction you feel it should go. Here’s a video to help you get started.
And how about your spiritual life? Are you still at “Something must be done” when you reflect on where you are in spiritual practices, in daily or hourly contact with the Divine, in taking care of your soul? “I must do something” raises the level of priority and leads you to specific actions you can take immediately.