Hope and Faith

Yesterday, the indefatigable songwriter for America (indeed, for the world),  the 71 year-old Bruce Springsteen sang at the Biden-Harris inauguration (“Land of Hopes and Dreams”):

“This train carries saints and sinners

This train carries losers and winners

….

This train carries lost souls

I said, this train carries broken-hearted

This train thieves and sweet souls departed

This train carries fools and kings

This train, all aboard

I said, this train, dreams will not be thwarted

This train, faith will be rewarded….” 

Photo by Nick Dunlapon Unsplash

In “Hope in the Dark: Untold Histories, Wild Possibilities”, Rebecca Solnit writes that “hope is not the belief that everything was, is or will be fine.” She continues: “Hope locates itself in the premises that we don’t know what will happen and that in the spaciousness of uncertainty there is room to act. When you recognize uncertainty, you recognize that you may be able to influence the outcomes — you alone or you in concert with a few dozen or several million others. Hope is an embrace of the unknown and the unknowable, an alternative to the certainty of both optimists and pessimists.”

In “The Anatomy of Human Destructiveness”, Erich Fromm agrees with Rebecca. he writes: “Optimism is an alienated form of faith, pessimism an alienated form of despair.” He then takes a position that what we need is “rational faith in man’s capacity to extricate himself from what seems the fatal web of circumstances that he has created. It is the position of neither “optimists” nor “pessimists” but radicals who have rational faith….” This “faith”, the basis of what Erich calls “humanistic radicalism”, is not a dreamy all-is-well view of the future — rather it “seeks to liberate man from the chains of illusions” by making fundamental changes that are “necessary” in “political and economic structure….our values….our aims…and in our personal conduct.”

And what is “personal conduct” here? The remarkable Father Gregory Boyle (the source of hope and faith for many many) teaches us with the simple profoundness that we see in the truly wise (“Barking to the Choir: The Power of Radical Kinship”):

Personally, I don’t think he [Jesus Christ] wants so much for us to wave palm fronds at his authority, but rather….to live as he would.

Peace 🙂

“Love Everyone”

We listen to Swami Vivekananda (“The Complete Works of Swami Vivekananda”) exhort the Graduate Philosophy Society of Harvard University on 25th March 1896: “Love everyone as your own self, because the whole universe is one.” What does this loving mean?

Thich Nhat Hanh, in “How to Love” teaches us that “True love includes a sense of responsibility and accepting the other person as she is, with all her strengths and weaknesses. If you only like the best things in a person, that is not love. You have to accept her weaknesses and bring your patience, understanding, and energy to help her….” 

The psychologist Erich Fromm writes in “The Art of Loving” that “the main condition for the achievement of love is the overcoming of one’s narcissism.” Thomas Merton explains this in “No Man is an Island”: “The beginning of love is….the resolution not to twist them to fit our own image. If in loving them we do not love what they are, but only their potential likeness to ourselves, then we do not love them: we only love the reflection of ourselves we find in them.”

Evening in Coimbatore — photograph by the Bibliophile

In a letter to his son (14 years young), written on 10th November 1958 (“Steinbeck: A Life in Letters”), the author and Nobel Laureate John Steinbeck writes: “There are several kinds of love. One is a selfish, mean, grasping, egotistical thing which uses love for self-importance. This is the ugly and crippling kind. The other is an outpouring of everything good in you — of kindness and consideration and respect….The first kind can make you sick and small and weak but the second can release in you strength, and courage and goodness and even wisdom you didn’t know you had.” 

If we want the world to heal and bloom, we would do well to ponder something in Swami Vivekananda’s lines deeply — he says love “everyone”….

Peace 🙂

agape

The brilliant children’s book “Love” written by Matt de la Peña, and illustrated by Loren Long, begins when we are babies – and get our first glimpse of love:

In the beginning there is light

and two wide-eyed figures standing

near the foot of your bed,

and the sound of their voice is love

Elsewhere in the book, they write about the child continuing to see parents — the “love that wakes at dawn and rides to work on the bus”, and the “slice of burned toast that tastes like love.”

In “Follies of God: Tennessee Williams and the Women of the Fog” (by James Grissom), we read Tennessee say that “we live in a perpetually burning building”, a “world….violent and mercurial”, which “will have its way with you.” The acclaimed playwright goes on:

We are saved only by love — love for each other and the love that we pour into the art we feel compelled to share: being a parent; being a writer; being a painter; being a friend.

Photo by Andre Ouelleton Unsplash

The psychologist Erich Fromm writes in “The Sane Society”: “In the experience of love lies the only answer to being human, lies sanity.”

In “How Should We Live: Great Ideas from the Past for Everyday Life”, the philosopher Roman Krznaric writes of “agape” — a word that, in the Greek Old Testament, means “unconditional Love” – a word that tells us, as does the Book of John (“1 John 4:8”), that “God is love.”

 Roman suggests that “we should all make a place for agape in our lives, and transform love into a gift” — a gift for everyone in our lives, and “for strangers” too. Roman goes on: “That is how we can reach a point where our lives feel abundant….”

Peace 🙂