Dream What You Will and Will What You Dream

(This article is featured in this month’s issue of The BeZine. See the issue here.)

I took a quiz recently to test my Bible knowledge. I used to be a bona fide college campus ministry staff worker. I studied my Bible…religiously. So, I wondered how much I’d retained after having dropped the Christian label 6 years ago. I got one question wrong: “In a list of the 9 fruits of the Holy Spirit, which one is NOT in the basket? Kindness, Peace, Forbearance, or Hope?” Turns out it’s Hope.

“Hope is a mannequin. Love is a battlefield,” sings Bobby McFerrin’s voice in my head.

Hope is a deceitful kind of thing. It sounds like a marvelous, Puritanical virtue. I think it’s a slippery slope. Hope is passive. “I hope it won’t rain.” There’s nothing you can really do about it, one way or the other. You’re stating a wish, a sort of desire or thought without any teeth. “I hope my insurance will cover this.” You’re placing the burden of responsibility or action on something, someone other than yourself. “I hope in the future.” You’re making present moment decisions while not being present in the moment.

On the other hand, I think Will has gotten a bum rap, as in “the willful child”, “not my Will but Yours be done”, “keep your servant from willful sins”, etc. I much prefer Ralph Waldo Emerson preaching Self-Reliance to that doctrinal negation of determination. I think it’s important to know what you want, what you like and why. At the same time, I think it’s very important not to get attached to those things. Some people will defend their desires because they feel that their identities are shaped by them, and they want them to be. In a Universe of impermanence, that can be problematic. What if the thing you desire is altogether unattainable? Or even unapproachable? Your identity becomes “the person who is not going to get what they want – ever”. Sounds like a life of frustration and suffering to me.

To be able to say that I think this thing is good, that I want to use my energy and resources to practice and promote this thing, while I acknowledge that much of the success of this thing remains out of my control, is Self-Reliance. Furthermore, I no longer believe that the success of this thing is in the control of a supernatural power. And I’m OK with that. I don’t need to have a guarantee that this thing will succeed eventually in order for me to feel my efforts are worthwhile. I can have a moral conviction of the value of this thing without supernatural endorsement.

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I suppose I should mention that my philosophical transformation began after my husband died. My identity was shaken. I lost Faith; I lost Hope. “How very sad!” I hear you cry. Let me add that I was then asked repeatedly by a dear friend, “What do you want?” “Who do you want to be?” and I eventually found myself. I became aware of delusions and habits of thought that I’d never examined before. I discovered my will, my values, my feelings and my ability to accept change, adapt, and practice living gracefully and gratefully. I know good things intuitively, and I have learned that I am trustworthy.

And I believe that everyone else could say the same. See, I do believe in something.

Weekly Photo Challenge: Optimism is a Choice!

Good things are on the horizon.  There’s a pink dawn behind the frost on my second story window.

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I feel hopeful that the new day will be fair.

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I believe we can always try to do better, that we don’t arrive, we practice.

With hard work and perseverance, we CAN clean up a mess and get things in better order.  (I’ve lived here with Steve for 5 years; for the first time, we have all our clothes stored out of sight.)

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I believe that ‘obstacles’ and ‘obligations’ are simply the wrong terms for ‘opportunities’.  (My daughter quit her job and went back to college this week!)

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I am an optimist, an idealist, and proud of it!  The glass is waiting; FILL IT UP!

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Optimistic

Harvesting Hope

I have just finished reading a very informative book by Jane Goodall on the subject of Food.  Harvest for Hope: A Guide to Mindful Eating has led me to reconsider the way I buy and cook and eat food.  Much of it is based on common sense and natural practices (What would a chimp choose to eat?  Have you ever seen an overweight chimp in the wild?), and much of it exposes the insanity that is our factory food production here in the “civilized” world. How civilized is it to cram thousands of chickens together in a cage, remove their beaks so that they can’t peck each other to death, pump them with antibiotics and force them to cannibalize their own kind by giving them non-vegetarian feed?  And then to slaughter them, ship their polluted flesh over thousands of miles burning fossil fuels, and eat it?  I was not thinking about that when I bought Super Saver packages of chicken breasts at my local super market.  I think about it now.

And here is the surprising gift of hope: my children have been thinking about this for years.  I didn’t lead the way. 

Here is another arena of hope: reclaiming, salvaging and recycling living space.  My daughter and her fiance purchased a home that had been severely water damaged and mold and mildew infested.  The inhabitants had moved out to hospice care and died; the house was abandoned, but the water wasn’t shut off.  In the winter freeze and thaw, the pipes broke and flooded the place.  What a mess!  But Joe comes from a family line of carpenters and construction wizards.  He has completely re-worked the house: plumbing, electric, heating, floor plan and surfaces.  He’s gotten neighbors, friends and family involved in the labor and in donating fixtures. The final step will be relocating the back yard garden.  You see, this house is just a few doors down the street from the one they’ve rented for the past 3 years.  So, by their wedding date one year from this month, they will have their own home and garden.  They are marvelous role models for sustainable living, and I am so proud of them! Yesterday I went down to visit and take pictures.  They sent me home with a bunch of produce from their garden.  I am so grateful and awed by how life unfolds.  The next generation is certainly capable of taking responsibility and working hard in a sustainable direction.  Let’s just hope many of them choose to!

Spring is Sprung!

Spring is sprung; the grass is rizz….

I wonder where the flowers izz?

Well, that’s the only flower I could find in my garden today, but it’s 73 degrees out, and soon, things will be busting out all over!  I took a group of kindergarteners to collect maple sap from the trees, and the spout on the south side of the tree refused to give any.  The north side was flowing slowly, enough for each kid to taste a drip.  Buds are opening, and sap’s first priority is way over the heads of the little kids.

Tomorrow, we plan to spend the day outside.  We actually have job interviews at a living history museum called Old World Wisconsin.  Their season starts in May, and their exhibits are 19th century homesteads featuring working farms, home crafts, and costumed interpreters (please pick me!).  I would love to work and learn and get paid there!  With Steve, too!  But I can’t count my chickens before they’re hatched.  In any event, it’ll be lovely visiting the site and camping out the rest of the day somewhere in this gorgeous weather.

I think of all the tiny, tender green shoots pushing up through the dead leaf litter, and the words of a song pop into my head: “Up from the ashes grow the roses of success.”  Now where did that come from?  Oh, “Chitty Chitty Bang Bang”, the movie musical.  Based on the book by Ian Fleming, no less.   A corny video of a bunch of crackpot inventors is available, but I’m not going to include it.  I do like to rejoice in the hopeful and positive example of nature.  Life goes on.  Death is part of it, but not the whole.  Green sprouts are a lot more sturdy and virile than they look.   All will be well.  And maybe I’ll be re-employed soon!

Soaring Hopes

What is it in the air?  That scent of wet earth, that change in light and warmth, that lengthening of days, that springtime feeling that quickens the pulse, that vitality?  Dare I call it ‘hope’?

My definition: n. A kind of trust or confidence…but not necessarily about a specific future outcome.  It points to a relationship and carries a sense of intimacy.

Why today?  Because my son is coming to visit me for a few days.  My only son.  He’s about half my age now.  I remember writing a poem about this kind of surging feeling when he was about 7 years old.  “A brilliant day in April…” it began.  I saw him walking home from school, baseball glove on hand, tossing a ball in the air and lazily catching it while his white-blond hair sucked a sunbeam into his entire being.  What was I feeling?  Pride?  Joy?  Awe?  That womb-love from the Hebrew scriptures?  Yes.  Absolom, my son, my son.  Coming home to me.

Ah, progeny.  How we load that concept with cultural baggage.  What is the reality of this young man’s life?  That’s what I want to learn.  The economy sucks.  Student loans suck.  Losing your father sucks.  Growing up is difficult.  And the world is a wonderful place.

What can we make of this visit?  While I wait for it to unfold, I will make chili and a clean place for him to sleep.  And I know he’s bringing his fabulous camera.  It’s a place to start.