Listen for Hope

Yesterday was a mix of joyous and sad. I often battle these conflicting emotions, which I guess makes me human. I celebrate nature’s beauty while acknowledging the sorrow that permeates this nation’s soul. I sit with both.

We rise early on Saturday to head downtown. We first discover a little outdoor breakfast joint that serves heavenly eggs and flaky biscuits. The cream’s fresh. The coffee exquisite. 

We then head to the botanical gardens which are tucked away in a funky urban neighborhood. The weather is perfect. As we wander through carefully tended gardens and ponds, and giggle at the names given to some of these wondrous plants, I feel nature whispering, “You're going to be okay.” The beauty and simplicity of nature heals and soothes the heart.

I know what is enfolding in Virginia. Every time I open my newsfeed I’m repulsed by vile images of hate. Fire. Fists. Fury. My heart twinges with grief. How do I come to terms with this chaos while I gaze upon towering trees and dainty flowers?

I look around me and see God, but I also know the devil lurks. The devil isn’t some mythical creature clad in red. The devil exists when we turn on one another with violence and malice, for when we give into that, evil is winning. No president, no four star general, no religious zealot can lead us out of this mayhem. We are forced to look inward and decide who wins. We must fight the horrors that lie within ourselves. We battle and brawl until we have no more strength left, and then the next day we begin again.

If you are a student of history you know we humans have been heinous to one another since the first man stood upright. Millions have been slaughtered in the name of power or glory or whatever god they worshipped at that time. Bodies continue to litter the landscape while “leaders” claim triumph. Just uttering the names of Stalin, Hitler, Genghis Khan, Pol Pot, Idi Amin, or Henry VIII sends quakes of sorrow throughout the world’s graveyards. 

But we human are also remarkable. We love and nurture and protect with such fierceness. We hold each other up. We grab hands. We look evil in the face and yell, “No!” We are Ripley in the movie Aliens as we scream, “Get away from her, you bitch!” We are Oskar Schindler. We are Mother Teresa. We are Rosa Parks. We are John Lennon. We are Joan of Arc. We are Harry Potter. We are Hermoine Granger. We are Anne Frank.

The battle we face today is fear. The fear of what we imagine has been taken from us. The fear of who we see on the streets is different from what we see in the mirror. The fear in our own hearts of what we can’t explain or rationalize away. All of us are engaged in this battle every day. We win when we push back the fear and embrace the unknown, the scary, the doubt, the discrepant. We need to walk with it and feel it deep within our spirit.

My friend Nancy talks about the energy in the universe, and in order to combat the negative we must send out the positive. The other day the great Anne Lamott wrote:

Get outside, even just to the front porch, and look up into the sky and into the tree tops, and say the great praise-prayer: WOW! Listen for the sound of birds - or bird...Close your eyes and really listen. If birdsong was the ONLY proof we have that there is a bigger deeper reality than what transcends what we are seeing on the news, it would be enough for me. Eyes closed, breathe, listen - secret of life.

So this morning I turn off the AC and open the slider door off my kitchen. I hear birds sing their Sunday hymn. I will fight for love. I will battle for peace. I will sit with my discomfort. I will resist. I will be loud. I will be quiet within my soul. I will resist. Because even though my grief is deep, I will not let go of hope. As James Baldwin wrote, “Love does not begin and end the way we seem to think it does. Love is a battle, love is a war; love is a growing up.”