Humanity

Our world seems mad, frightening. Out of alignment.
Brexit, windmill cancer, Mueller, global warming, and more.
 
I get really scared. I'm sure you do too.
 
You'd have to be especially disconnected to not feel the fear.
 
And, there's something we can do about it.
 
 
Hope
OK, ok, ok, I kind of want to slap me for suggesting there might be a simple response to our fears.
 
I get it.
 
The world feels like it is crashing down and I try to give you some pollyanna message of the power of a positive mindset?
 
I almost didn't write this article because I was afraid you might think I'm overly simplifying, that I'm a starry-eyed idealist (which I might be).
 
But, I thought about it. It might seem idealistic. But, it's still true. Hope is critical to our well-being.
 
Please hear me out.
 
 
John's message
My friend, pastor John Pavlovitz, wrote this last week and he is spot on:
 

I stay hopeful because hopeless is not an option. Hopelessness is defeat and resignation; it is a willing surrender to darkness that insults the memory of so many who have courageously made this planet their home long before we ever showed up here.

I stay hopeful because people of every nationality, religious affiliation, and life circumstance who have preceded us, have experienced all manner of hell during their lifetimes: unspeakable suffering and unthinkable fear—and would not relent. They faced genocide and slavery and war; endured murderous regimes and malignant dictators and corrupt governments and yet chose to persevere.

They made the daily, sometimes hourly decision to speak and live and create and work and resist and love when it proved difficult. We need to do that now.

 
Passover and Easter
I take solace in the springtime holy days of Passover and Easter. These twin stories tell us that even when all seems hopeless, lost, irreversible, and in vain, something unexpected, miraculous happens to redeem us. These stories, told for thousand and thousands of years, implore us not to lose hope, not to give up.
 
The Israelites, with the impassable Red Sea before them and the Egyptian army behind them, face certain death. We who know the story know that the sea will part, but they do not. They feel the terror of what seems to be God's utter abandonment.
 
Similarly, the disciples witness Jesus's execution. He lays dead before them. We know the next part of the story – that Jesus will come back to them. But they do not. They have no reason to have hope. They don't know Easter is only a few days away.
 
And so it is with our fears today.
 
We are scared.
We don't know how this story goes.
We can't see when, how, or that we – either as individuals or as a collective – will be redeemed.
 
These ancient stories promise that all will be liberated, lifted, freed, and loved.
 
It's just that it's hard to believe.
 
 
Choose hope
Anne Frank wrote, "Where there's hope, there's life. It fills us with fresh courage and makes us strong again."
 
Hope, even the smallest amounts, revives us.
 
And, hope is a choice. We can choose to have hope. Even if it takes a great amount of inner strength to do so. We can choose hope.
 
Both hope and hopeless are, at some level, a choice.
 
Hopelessness, as opposed to hope, is easier to get into. You can just let go and sink into it. Hope, on the other hand, is something you have to work towards – sometimes by pretending to have it when you don't, which can feel really stupid and crazy. 
 
We can choose, or fall into, hopelessness.
Or we can choose hope.
Dante Alighieri imagined that above the entrance to hell are the words, Lasciate ogne speranza, voi ch'intrate. This is usually translated as "Abandon all hope, ye who enter here." It is seen as an imperative, that those who have found themselves at the gates of hell ought to abandon their hope. I imagine that the sign might mean something else: that this place, hell, is where those who have abandoned all hope enter. That is, if you have abandoned hope, welcome to hell. But, if you have not abandoned hope, then you cannot enter hell. In other words, if you have hope, you can't be in hell.
 
We can choose to believe and live as if tomorrow, next week, and two generations from now will be brighter than today.
 
Having hope is a choice. We can choose to have hope. 
 
And so, I beg you, I implore you, I beseech you: have hope. Believe that all is never lost.
 
Let's be reasonable:
If redemption happens to both those who have hope and those who do not have hope, then, what is the downside to having hope?
 
For those with or without hope, redemption happens. 
 
Always.
 
You better believe it.
 
With love, AND HOPE
Rabbi Brian
 
rabbi_brian@rotb.org
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