The time of an inauguration of a new president and vice president is a commencement—a beginning, and with a new beginning there arises hope. Fresh blood, fresh leaders throughout a new government and a renewed one, awakens hope.
Our times are heavy with wide-ranging burdens. A global pandemic currently aflame and out of control in our nation (vaccines now available, but distribution very slow and ragged). The future of the planet is likewise out of control, with the extinction of countless species, our own included, staring us in the face.
Fascism is aflame in our country (but at least having made itself manifest and visible on January 6, it is no longer hidden from us) and white supremacy has directed the outgoing president’s decisions for years from the West Wing office of senior advisor Steven Miller.
More than 19 million Americans are receiving some form of jobless assistance, and our economy is teetering. Our healthcare system is not only reeling from the pandemic, but infested too with unfairness and inaccessibility for millions of people who lack health insurance, while acute housing shortages and rapidly multiplying homeless encampments exacerbate its spread.
….And much more.
With all these problems, still hope lies in the human soul. Hope that we can change course and get good things done.
I abide by eco-philosopher David Orr’s definition of hope: “Hope is a verb with the sleeves rolled up.” Hope is proportionate to our willingness to go to work to solve problems. Diversity and creativity are key to problem solving and therefore to hope overcoming despair.
Psychologist Otto Rank teaches that “pessimism comes from the repression of creativity.” Where creativity rises, pessimism (and despair) diminish. A new administration hints of creativity and new questions asked and new solutions offered.
Julian of Norwich, who lived through the most devastating plague in European history, understandably has much to say about hope and despair.
For Julian, the search for and memory of goodness is primal. From goodness there arises both love and hope–after all, all love is a response to goodness (or at least to what we perceive as goodness). This is its attraction.
To speak of goodness is to speak of love, and vice versa. It is a way of seeing the world, for beyond love lies goodness. Joy is integral to hope, for “a person who is joyful has greater hope,” observes Thomas Aquinas. Practicing the via positiva is an important way to keeping hope alive.
Goodness, as Julian insists, can be found everywhere in nature. And where it is missing in human nature, it is our task to make it right again, to bring it alive in ourselves and others.
Julian counsels us to face our despair and feelings of helplessness. She encourages us to roll up our sleeves and get to work—to do both our inner work and our outer work, our spiritual work and our political work, our mystical and our prophetic work.
Adapted from Matthew Fox, Julian of Norwich: Wisdom in a Time of Pandemic—and Beyond, pp. 97-99.
See “1st jobless report of 2021: US unemployment claims remain high as 787,000 file for aid” on News Nation Now, 1/7/2021.
Banner Image: New Jersey National Guard Soldiers and Airmen from 1st Battalion, 114th Infantry Regiment, 508th Military Police Company, 108th Wing, and 177th Fighter Wing arrive near the Capitol to set up security positions in Washington, D.C., Jan. 12, 2021. Photo by The National Guard on Flickr.
Do you feel some sense of hope with the inauguration approaching even in the midst of struggles and challenges?
Julian of Norwich: Wisdom in a Time of Pandemic–and Beyond
Julian of Norwich lived through the dreadful bubonic plague that killed close to 50% of Europeans. Being an anchoress, she ‘sheltered in place’ and developed a deep wisdom that she shared in her book, Showings, which was the first book in English by a woman. A theologian way ahead of her time, Julian develops a feminist understanding of God as mother at the heart of nature’s goodness. Fox shares her teachings in this powerful and timely and inspiring book.
“What an utterly magnificent book. The work of Julian of Norwich, lovingly supported by the genius of Matthew Fox, is a roadmap into the heart of the eco-spiritual truth that all life breathes together.” –Caroline Myss
Now also available as an audiobook HERE.