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Happy New Year – 2023 with Hope

2022 was an eventful year in terms of writing and publishing. It was also surprising as I the two published pieces, a book chapter and a peer-reviewed article, were about hope and had a spiritual component to them. I think hope is a phenomenon we each want in our lives. Those who have followed the blog for a while may recall that The Peace Prayer of St. Francis is an important part of my family’s life. We recite it at various ceremonies when we come together and Kathy and I have a small plaque my mother gave us many years ago.

The line that resonates most with me is “where there is despair hope.” I used the line in the introduction of a book chapter I co-authored. It commemorated the centenary of Paulo Freire‘s birth. Many would associate him with critical pedagogy and his seminal book, Pedagogy of the Oppressed. Later in life, he revisited many of the themes from this book in one called Pedagogy of Hope, which we used as our primary reference. Without hope, we are left with little. We are left with despair.

For me, Emily Dickinson describes the spiritual and paradoxical essence of hope in the following poem:

“Hope” is the thing with feathers –

That perches in the soul –

And sings the tune without the words –

And never stops – at all –

And sweetest – in the Gale – is heard –

And sore must be the storm –

That could abash the little Bird

That kept so many warm –

I’ve heard it in the chillest land –

And on the strangest Sea –

Yet – never – in Extremity,

It asked a crumb – of me.

Hope is spiritual in that what we each hope for can animate our spirit and make our lives more complete. We hear it song most clearly in moments of silence and stillness as we turn inward to listen to the tune without words. Hope is paradoxical as it is fragile and exists in the Gale and storm that makes it sore. We have to be alert to the challenges we face in bringing hope to life. Perhaps it is best expressed in moments where it intersects with the hopes of others who we come in contact with.

My taste in music tends to the eclectic and non-mainstream. Several years ago, I heard Michael Franti on a small radio station (they still exist) I listen to and loved his messages. His songs embody hope, the role the heart plays in it, the reality of hard times, and how we need others to live with hope.

Several years ago, we travelled to Jasper National Park and went on a day tour. As we passed the trees in this picture, the guide told us the tall one was about 300 years old. Due to the difficult conditions, the tree did not realize its fullest height. Despite the challenges, it still grew. Its growth is like hope.

Let Go

via Let Go

Eddie posts short quotes and images about living mindfully and being aware of how we each live. Let go is a quote from Thich Nhat Hanh who provides wonderful insights into how to let go and be in the present. For me, They’s most profound quote is about finding the extraordinary in the ordinary.

Make no mistake, this challenges me. It is not only difficult to live fully in the moment, it is impossible. Being aware of this paradox of letting go and being in the present moment is part of mindfulness.

I tell hockey players, students, and anyone who will listen for that matter to figure out what we each control and don’t in our lives. This is important in daily life and essential in times like this when we are faced with even more uncertainty.

I try to stick to a routine, getting up at the same time, making breakfast (now for Kathy who is working at home), going for a walk, checking email, writing, reading, etc. I spend a little time watching local news to make sure I have a sense of what is going on close to me.

For the most part, social distancing has not been difficult. I am a profound introvert who loves the ritual of routine. I still wave to people, smile at them on my walks, and pause to chat. On the other hand, this has been difficult for those who thrive on engaging socially. Maybe, as it is for me, this is a time to reflect on what has happened in my life and let go of things to live more fully in the present.

What am I grateful for? It may sound odd, but making breakfast and lunch for Kathy is something to be grateful for. What are you grateful for that might have emerged in these difficult times with rapid change? What have you let go of?

I leave you with a prayer by Thomas Merton called A Prayer of Unknowing. It has echoes of the 23rd Psalm. I have not researched it, but I suspect all cultures and religions have a similar prayer to help guide each of us through uncertain, sometimes dark moments.

My Lord God, I have no idea where I am going. I do not see the road ahead of me. I cannot know for certain where it will end. Nor do I really know myself, and the fact that I think I am following Your will does not mean that I am actually doing so.

But I believe that the desire to please You does in fact please You. And I hope I have that desire in all that I am doing. I hope that I will never do anything apart from that desire. And I know that, if I do this, You will lead me by the right road, though I may know nothing about it.

Therefore I will trust You always though I may seem to be lost and in the shadow of death. I will not fear, for You are ever with me, and You will never leave me to face my perils alone. Amen

Here is a video from Michael Franti called Good to Be Alive Today. How do we put our spin on feeling good about being alive today? How do we each reach out to others?

 

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