749. Making visible signs of hope

749. Making Visible Signs of Hope.jpg

This past week I've been reading Henri Nouwen's, The Wounded Healer. Written in 1972 and primarily to an audience of ministers, I'm finding that it offers much wisdom to anyone who seeks to be a caring and positive presence in the world. I'm going to write more about it in my newsletter this weekend, but here's a place to start:

More than anything, else, he will look for signs of hope and promise in the situation in which he finds himself...[and have] the sensibility to notice the small mustard seed and the trust to believe that ‘when it has grown it is the biggest shrub of all and becomes a tree so that the birds of the air come and shelter in its branches.’ (Mt. 13:31—32) He knows that if there is hope for a better world in the future the signs must be visible in the present, and he will never curse the now in favor of the later. He is not a naive optimist who expects his frustrated desires to be satisfied in the future, nor a bitter pessimist who keeps repeating that the past has taught him that there is nothing new under the sun; he is rather a man of hope who lives with the unshakable conviction that now he is seeing a dim reflection in the mirror, but that one day he will see the future face to face.

The Christian leader who is able not only to articulate the movements of the spirit but also to contemplate his world with a critical but compassionate eye, may expect that the convulsive generation will not choose death as the ultimate desperate form for protest, but instead the new life of which he has made visible the first hopeful signs.

Please forgive Nouwen the exclusive use of masculine pronouns (which he apologizes for in the introduction to the edition I read). Next, consider that his term "the convulsive generation" can apply to any person who is troubled or needs hope.

And then, most importantly, let's please imagine ourselves (dare I say) in the leader role, articulating the spirit, considering our world with a compassionate eye, and making visible signs of hope to whomever among us needs it.

~~~

[Photo: reflections on a summer sidewalk]

747. The responsibility to hope

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I've been reading and re-reading Mystical Hope by Cynthia Bourgeault, which I first learned about in one of Elizabeth Jarrett Andrew's newsletters. While the book is introducing me to some new thoughts on the topic of hope, it also has affirmed much of what I've been thinking about—and learning about from others—in recent years while working on my current manuscript. Here's a section from Mystical Hope that speaks about hope as a responsibility. While the word 'responsibility' usually has a heavy ring to it, Bourgeault's language in this paragraph shines on what can emerge.

 

"[H]ope is not intended to be an extraordinary infusion, but an abiding state of being. We lose sight of the invitation—and in fact, our responsibility, as stewards of creation—to develop a conscious and permanent connection to this wellspring. We miss the call to become a vessel, to become a chalice into which this divine energy can pour; a lamp through which it can shine."

 

~~~

ps. I'll be sending out my Dear Reader newsletter this weekend; if you don't already subscribe, and would like to, you can do so by clicking here.

[Photo: taken of the Stone Arch bridge on a spring evening here in Minneapolis.]

 

746. On tending: thoughts on a used book

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One of the books that I bought when a friend gave me a gift card to Half-Price Books several months ago was French Dirt: The Story of A Garden in the South of France by Richard Goodman. (I wrote about it in my newsletter last week and am writing of it here as well, adding some new thoughts.) Since I'm not a gardener, I'm not exactly sure why I put this book in my stack, but I know its cover art along with the suggestion of a creative endeavor in France held substantial appeal. A first-time gardener, plus being from New York City, Goodman had many questions about how to begin. One of the things he quickly learned was that he must "tend" his garden every day. Tend: isn't that a great word? It means "to have the care of; watch over; look after." Reading French Dirt made me think not only about how much I'd love to travel to the South of France but also about my writing and how long I sometimes go without tending it. Perhaps you have something to tend as well, something that's not your paid work but work of another variety, even work of the leisurely variety. (As his book affirms, there's sometimes a thin line between work and leisure). What a gift it is when someone shares the way in which they tend what is theirs to tend.

And speaking of someone sharing their way, another thing that interested me in reading this book is that although it looked brand new, there were three papers stuck in the pages, which I hadn't noticed until I started reading. First, there was a receipt for the book, dated New Year's Eve of 2010, from Haslam's book store in St. Petersburg, Florida, my old home town! An independently owned bookstore, Haslam's is now more than 80 years old. Next, there was a short page of four notations from the book. Among them the reader had noted a gorgeous piece of writing on page 26, in which Goodman wrote about watering the garden by moonlight, a section I had just read and delighted in before discovering this paper, and a word on page 82 that I also had paused over, estival, a new word to me but one that is most appropriate right now because it means " pertaining or appropriate to summer." Finally, there was an article from The New York Times, dated August 28, 2011, about Richard Goodman riding his bicycle nearly daily from his home on the Upper West Side down to ground zero, or as close as he could get, for three months after 9/11 ("Coping With 9/11, Riding on Two Wheels") and then writing about it in a limited-press book called The Bicycle Diaries: One New Yorker's Journey Through 9/11, which he did in partnership with the book's illustrator, Gaylord Schanilec.

I like to think the book's previous reader intentionally left these papers stuck in the pages for the benefit of its next reader. A camaraderie of sorts. A mystical tending of the community of readers.

~~~

[Photo: taken of the cover of French Dirt.]