Sunday, December 4, 2016

318. Despair

I don’t usually pay attention to all of Mass. My mind wanders during the preparation of the gifts, other times I don’t sing along, or I don’t get all of the reading. Usually, I just try to take one thing away from Mass. This time it was from the homily. The priest talked a lot about hope and waiting today. He quoted a line from a rabbi: despair is the greatest of sins.

I don’t know if you’ve been watching the news or on social media lately, but it’s all been despair. Most of the despair has been about Trump, as it should be. There’s also been despair about natural disasters, manmade disasters, and all sorts of tragedies. If you didn’t leave your computer or phone during the day, you might think the world is slowly rotting. Maybe it is. I don’t know if I’m the one to judge that. One thing that’s been lost amid all of this? I’ve actually had some pretty great weekends.

I’ve seen a lot of my friends for sporting events, drinks, concerts, or just plain bs’ing. I’ve connected via phone call or letter with some friends who I haven’t talked to in a while. I’ve taken in some great soccer games and long runs. In the crap of everything that’s happened in the past month, I’ve really “felt the love.” That’s so easy to forget when it all seems like it is going to pot.

A colleague of mine and I have been talking a lot about the events of the past month. They’ve been deep conversations, more than the typical workplace banter. She told me something that stuck with me, it’s a privilege to give into despair. It’s a privilege to give in to the anger, sadness, and frustration of modern life. Most of us- white, well-educated urbanites- don’t have to worry about a majority or problems that other people have to face. I know that I won’t be affected by Trump’s policies. I’ll be fine and safe. So when I give into despair, I’m not risking anything. I’m still going to live my life and be pretty all right. But hope is dangerous.

I saw the movie “Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them” last weekend. After losing a bunch of the titular beasts the main character, Newt Scamander, embarks on a chase to get them all back. A particularly difficult beast provided a difficult catch for the posse that had been assembled. I forgot which character asked Scamander if he was worried. He said, “My philosophy is that if you worry, you suffer twice.” That’s good advice. It’s something I’ve tried to be keen of the last few days.

It’s challenging to push forward without any sign of success. It’s hard to struggle without seeing any reason behind your struggle. It’s easier to just give in. I don’t want to give into cynicism. That has never been a quality I find attractive in people.  I think hope and optimism are the best gifts we have. Keep them going.

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