Chaos and Hope

It seems the most frequently used word in our country on this day, 12/21/2018, is CHAOS. I know one definition is ‘a state of utter confusion or disorder’. But another definition is ‘the infinity of space or formless matter supposed to have preceded the existence of the ordered universe.’

This is one of those posts where I find myself writing in order to try to figure things out for myself. My intention is not to take a political or religious position about the chaotic state of affairs. The chaos is the result of many different factors that have been evolving over many years.

It seems to me that the vast majority of people in this country feel discouraged and hopeless. Feel they have no control over so many things that influence their lives. Recent events have made us feel that even more so.

For those of us who have faith in a greater power, spirit, God, or however you express your spirituality, this is an opportunity to delve more deeply into that. This is also an opportunity to share your spirituality with those who don’t have faith or hope, as long as they are open to what you have to offer. The way that has worked best, in my experience, is to first offer the space for others to express their doubts, fears, or concerns to you. And really listen to what they are saying. Have the attitude that you can learn from listening to others, because you can. Once someone else finds you are really listening, they often eventually reach the point where they begin to ask questions of you, and begin to actually listen to your responses.

ALL THAT WE ARE IS STORY. From the moment we are born to the time we continue on our spirit journey, we are involved in the creation of the story of our time here. It is what we arrive with. It is all we leave behind. We are not the things we accumulate. We are not the things we deem important. We are story. All of us. What comes to matter then is the creation of the best possible story we can while we’re here; you, me, us, together. When we can do that and we take the time to share those stories with each other, we get bigger inside, we see each other, we recognize our kinship — we change the world one story at a time.
Richard Wagamese (October 14, 1955-March 10, 2017)
Ojibwe from Wabeseemoong Independent Nations, Canada

I recently wrote a post I titled “Spiritual Depth” that tells a story about an indigenous man who changed the weather. That story made me realize my faith is sometimes too constrained, and I have work to do to deepen my own faith.

I’ve also written about an article that I read that explains the expression “practicing hope” that I have often used since.

April 30, 2018 by Quinn Norton

People often mistake hope for a feeling, but it’s not. It’s a mental discipline, an attentional practice that you can learn. Like any such discipline, it’s work that takes time, which you fail at, succeed, improve, fail at again, and build over years inside yourself.

Hope isn’t just looking at the positive things in this world, or expecting the best. That’s a fragile kind of cheerfulness, something that breaks under the weight of a normal human life. To practice hope is to face hard truths, harder truths than you can face without the practice of hope. You can’t navigate dark places without a light, and hope is that light for humanity’s dark places. Hope lets you study environmental destruction, war, genocide, exploitative relations between peoples. It lets you look into the darkest parts of human history, and even the callous entropy of a universe hell bent on heat death no matter what we do. When you are disciplined in hope, you can face these things because you have learned to put them in context, you have learned to swallow joy and grief together, and wait for peace.

One way we can respond to this chaotic time is to deepen our own spiritual practice. And be especially aware of those who are suffering from hopeless, and when appropriate, share our stories with each other.

I’m practicing hope today.

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