Quote of the Day

“What we achieve inwardly will change outer reality.”

~Plutarch, 46-120 (Greek Philosopher)

Quote of the Day

“Imagination was given to man to compensate him for what he is not; a sense of humor to console him for what he is.”

~Francis Bacon, 1561-1626 (English Philosopher )

Where is the Hope?

I read on another blog today how a pastor (Eugene E Cho) was being questioned in regards to the tragedy that has besot the Chapman family.  Apparently, his post has gotten a lot of views–and a lot of responses.  In his update, he left a question–Where would you say is the hope for this family in all of this?

I think it’s a question that broadens out–because it’s not just about where is the hope for the Chapman family:  Where is the hope for all of us who suffer?  I think it’s a question all of us ask at one time or another–some come to it earlier than others. 

This question that has been asked so many times by so many people spanning generations, race, gender, and age resonated within me.  Where is the hope?  Which leads me to another question as questions often do–what is hope?

My dictionary (Shorter Oxford English Dictionary, sixth edition) defines hope thus:

1. verb intrans. Entertain expectation of something desired.  Look for, expect (without implication of desire)

hope against hope: cling to a mere possibility

2. verb intrans. Trust, have confidence, (in)

3. verb trans. Expect and desire (a thing, that, to do); feel fairly confident that; intend, if possible, to do

So in asking “Where is the hope?” we ask:  What are we expecting?  What do we desire?  What or who do we trust?  What are we trusting for?

When staring down into the unseeing eyes of death–what is our hope?  I can’t answer for everyone, obviously.  I can answer for myself–and having done a bit of reading, and observing I feel that I know how a lot of people would answer.  We hope that death is not the end.  We hope for more beyond the grave. 
We hope to be re-united with those that we have loved and lost.  We hope to survive what amounts to crush injuries to the soul, caused by grief.  We hope to live, and in living we hope to love and to be loved.  At least it’s so with me.

Where do we place our hope?  More specifically, in whom do we place our hope?  It’s a question that for thousands of years has created sparks, to say the least.  To be more accurate, I think it’s the myriad of answers to that question that has caused stirs and conflicts.  Notice, I didn’t ask where should we place our hope–but where do we?  Because where a person actually places their hope means a lot more than where they say they ought to.  For some hopes, we place them in our own hands.  Other hopes we’ll place in the hands of others, or things–like spouses, jobs, and bank accounts.  But where do we go when our own hands and the hands of others fail us?  Where do you place your hope when every tangible anchor has failed you?  When the doctors can do no more?  When the company downsizes?  When the stock market crashes?  When tragedy after tragedy befalls you? 

When all hope is gone…but is all hope ever really gone?  Could it be that we’ve only placed our hope in that which must eventually fail and succumb as we ourselves will?  Is it possible to place our hope where it will never fail?  I believe it is so possible, although given the nature of humanity–it’s not always easy to do so.  Sometimes giving up is easier. 

Nietzsche was no fan of hope.  In fact he said, “Hope in reality is the worst of all evils because it prolongs the torments of man.”  I disagree, wholeheartedly.  But I can see where he’s coming from.  Hope can give us the strength to endure what otherwise is unendurable.  Frankl’s account of his experiences in Auschwitz come to mind.  They could often tell when a man had given up hope, had lost his strength to endure: he’d smoke his cigarettes.  Instead of holding on to them–he’d enjoy them, so he’d have a bit of pleasure before leaving this world.  Then he’d die–whether it was from “running into the wire” or from simply giving up, he’d die.  In this respect, his torments would end.  I don’t believe that hope prolongs our torments–I believe hope gives us the fortitude to endure what must be endured.  I believe that it is hope that gives us a chance to have more than an existence–it gives us a chance to live.  With living comes pain.  It’s unavoidable.  For me, I’d take the pain that comes with living over the true torment and torture of simply existing.

To that end, I have chosen to place my hopes in one who is greater than I.  Back to the original question–“Where is the hope in this tragedy?”  My answer?  It is in the God who created me and who sustains me.  “On Christ the solid rock I stand, all other ground is sinking sand” could also be thought of as “On Christ the solid rock I hope, all other ground is sinking sand.”

Those who know me best, know music is never far from my heart or my head.  When this question was asked, two songs leapt into my head.  Non-oddly enough, both are by Steven Curtis Chapman.  The first, “Heaven in the Real World” begs the question:  “Where is the hope?  Where is the peace  That makes this life complete?”  The second is his song, “With Hope.”

With Hope by Stephen Curtis Chapman

This is not at all how
We thought it was supposed to be
We had so many plans for you
We had so many dreams
And now you’ve gone away
And left us with the memories of your smile
And nothing we can say
And nothing we can do
Can take away the pain
The pain of losing you, but …

We can cry with hope
We can say goodbye with hope
‘Cause we know our goodbye is not the end, oh no
And we can grieve with hope
‘Cause we believe with hope
(There’s a place by God’s grace)
There’s a place where we’ll see your face again
We’ll see your face again

And never have I known
Anything so hard to understand
And never have I questioned more
The wisdom of God’s plan
But through the cloud of tears
I see the Father’s smile and say well done
And I imagine you
Where you wanted most to be
Seeing all your dreams come true
‘Cause now you’re home
And now you’re free, and …

We have this hope as an anchor
‘Cause we believe that everything
God promised us is true, so …

So we can cry with hope
And say goodbye with hope

We wait with hope
And we ache with hope
We hold on with hope
We let go with hope

******************************************************************

From the Stephen Curtis Chapman Official Website:

The Chapman family is so grateful for the incredible outpouring of love and support at this difficult time.

  • If you’d like to meet Maria and express your condolences click here
  • By mail, send to PO Box 150156 Nashville, TN  37215.
  • In lieu of flowers, the Chapmans request any gifts be directed to Shaohannah’s Hope.

 

Funeral Arrangements for Maria Sue Chapman

FRI May 23rd Visitation 5-8p

SAT May 24th Memorial service 11a

at Christ Presbyterian Church
2323 Old Hickory Blvd, Nashville, TN
(615) 373-2311

 

Daily Wrinkle

“Yet it is in our idleness, in our dreams, that the submerged truth sometimes comes to the top.”

~Virginia Woolf, 1882-1941

Daily Wrinkle

“Every actual State is corrupt. Good men must not obey laws too well.”

~Ralph Waldo Emerson, 1803-1882

Pride

Michelle Obama’s comment, “For the first time in my adult life, I am proud of my country,” has set a lot of people talking.  And perhaps even thinking. 

If you’re looking for me to bash Michelle Obama–or even defend her–you’re wasting your time.  There are plenty of other sites where you can find that.

I’m more concerned about the bigger picture; namely:  the state of this country; is it something to be proud of; and is a lack of pride unpatriotic and unamerican?

As to the state of this country–We’ve definitely got a lot of things going for us.  Freedom, Democracy, The Constitution, Bill of Rights, technology, ad infinitum.  We’ve also got a lot of things going against us.  Encroachment on rights and freedoms, poverty, apathy, ad infinitum.

Is the US the best country in the world?  There was a time when I would rush to answer that question, without thinking, resoundingly: YES!!!  OF COURSE!!!  That was also during a time when I rushed to answer a lot of questions without thinking.  How would I answer it now?  I don’t know.  Seems to me that America is not as great as she once was.  Does that mean she’s beyond redemption and hope?  By all means, no!  Does that mean I’m ready to give it all up and move to Canada?  No.  I can understand to a large degree why so many Americans find it important to believe America is the greatest country in the world.  We’re a competitive people.  And stubborn.  Want proof?  Look at how we back our sports teams.  The 49ers haven’t won a Superbowl in years and yes, they’re still the greatest football team in the country.  Want proof?  Just ask me (or any other “true” 49er fan)! 

Bill Mahr said something recently that makes sense to me.  He said, “Why does America have to be the best for everyone?  Why can’t it just be the best for us?” 

I want differences.  I don’t want everything and everybody to be the same.  Granted, I may not like all the differences–just like I don’t always like every dish on a restaurant menu, but I sure do appreciate the variety and availability of choices.  I do not believe the rest of the world has to model how they do everything after America.  In the grand scheme of things, it might do to remember that when it comes to age America is a young country.  So yeah we may mix things up a bit, do things differently (like drive on the right side of the road instead of the left)–but different isn’t always better.  It’s not always worse.  Sometimes it’s just, well, different.

There are A LOT of things that make me proud to be an American.  There are things that make me ashamed as well.  I think that’s healthy.  I think that’s realistic.  I don’t always like things that my country does.  Does that mean I’m jumping ship?  No.  Do I have to always like and approve of everything my country does?  Hell no!  Parents can love their children unconditionally without being proud of their every action, decision, and word.  Parents can love their children always even when they disapprove of what their children have done.  Parents can support their children even when their children have made egregious mistakes.  I realize not all parents do so…but wouldn’t our children be better if all parents did do so?  Why can’t we take the same stance with our country?

A lot of men and women have sacrificed greatly to secure this country (and not just those who gave their lives…those who served, and their families).  Does questioning this country, its condition, and expressing displeasure (or even dare I say shame) negate those sacrifices, make them worth any less?  I don’t think so!  In fact, I think holding one’s tongue, blind faith in the government, and a refusal to see what is working and good as well as what is not is more disrespectful to those who have sacrificed than speaking the truth is.  After all with the truth comes the possibility that things may change–and for the better.

It’s easy to jump ship just because you don’t like something–but honouring a commitment to one’s country is proven not when one is happiest with one’s country, but when one is most unhappy with it. 

What makes a patriot?  The dictionary has this to say:

pa·tri·ot      [pey-tree-uht, -ot or, especially Brit., pa-tree-uht] Pronunciation KeyShow IPA Pronunciation

–noun

1. a person who loves, supports, and defends his or her country and its interests with devotion.
2. a person who regards himself or herself as a defender, esp. of individual rights, against presumed interference by the federal government.
3. (initial capital letter) Military. a U.S. Army antiaircraft missile with a range of 37 mi. (60 km) and a 200-lb. (90 kg) warhead, launched from a tracked vehicle with radar and computer guidance and fire control.

[Origin: 1590–1600; < MF patriote < LL patriōta < Gk patrités fellow-countryman, lineage member]

Dictionary.com Unabridged (v 1.1)
Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2006.

Notice–there’s nothing in there that says a patriot must be proud of their country.  Food for thought, most definitely.

Something else to think about–John Adams said, “Democracy… while it lasts is more bloody than either aristocracy or monarchy. Remember, democracy never lasts long. It soon wastes, exhausts, and murders itself. There is never a democracy that did not commit suicide. ” 

Love and You Will Be Free

Just got out of philosophy.  We are studying a section on the meaning of life.  We just finished studying Epicurus who is a hedonist (although he’s not concerned with a profligate life, but a prudent one).  He believes the way to THE GOOD is found through pleasure (and avoidance of pain).  THE GOOD is that which philosophers are interested in obtaining.  It’s defined differently by different philosophers but usually entails live a tranquil life/obtaining peace of mind.

We just started studying Epictetus (What is it with these Greek names?  What were their mothers thinking???) who is a stoic.  Stoicism is also concerned with finding THE GOOD and living a tranquil life, but it gets there differently.  Stoicism teaches that we should resign ourselves to fate, submit to our duty and thereby we will obtain peace.

Stoicism appealed to both slave and emperor.  (Epictetus was born a slave, and Marcus Aurelius was also a stoic.)  Stoicism is concerned not with what happens to us, but with our perceptions (as in judgments not the sensations that Epicurus was concerned with) of what happens to us. 

Seneca was also a stoic and I agree with his statement, “For mere living is not a good, but living well.”  That’s a concept I’ve been concerned with for as long as I can remember.  However, Seneca’s interpretation of this leads him to the belief that suicide is both ok and good.  I disagree.  If one’s life enters the condition of mere living Seneca would argue that one should then end it.  I would argue that one should work to make changes (in circumstances, perceptions, etc.) that would allow one to live well.

In reading what Epictetus had to say I think that Paul (of the New Testament) holds to some of these ideas within stoicism–namely that of being content within himself no matter what the circumstances outside of himself are. 

I don’t hold with all the ideas of stoicism.  Epictetus actually said, “Laugh seldom and about few things and with restraint.”  Science tells us laughing is good for the immune system, and those that laugh often are healthier.  For me, laughter is a part of living life well!

Nor do I agree with this idea that fate is unavoidable.  Being more of an existentialist I believe that humans always have choices.  In the extreme, if our choices are reduced there remains at least always one–the choice on how we will perceive our life, self, circumstances.  That choice is the only true choice that Epictetus believes we have.  He did get that right so I’ll give him some props there! 

Epictetus asserts that to be free one should focus on what one controls (“perception, intention, desire, aversion, and in sum whatever are our own doings) and that to attempt to seek or avoid what others control (body, property, reputation, political office and in sum, whatever are not our own doings) will make us a slave.  This led me to the thought–If you seek to be loved, you are a slave.  Love and you are free. 

Unsurprisingly, the previous thought led me to Viktor E. Frankl (an existentialist) who said that the poets were right when they said that “in and through love is man’s salvation.”  Frankl was not talking about being loved, but rather about loving someone (regardless of whether that person was present or even alive.)  In fact, loving someone is one of the three ways in which Frankl argues one can find meaning of life. 

You cannot make someone love you.  However, you can choose to love someone–whether they love you or not.