Friday, April 15, 2011

What Gives Me Hope? - Karen Orrick

Karen Orrick '11 
Rollins Chapel, 4/14/11

The Prophet -- Khalil Gibran
"Your joy is your sorrow unmasked.  And the selfsame well from which your laughter rises was oftentimes filled with your tears.  How else can it be?  The deeper that sorrow carves into your being, the more joy you can contain."
Matthew 6: 19-23 (NRSV)
19 ‘Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust* consume and where thieves break in and steal; 20but store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust consumes and where thieves do not break in and steal. 21For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.  22 ‘The eye is the lamp of the body. So, if your eye is healthy, your whole body will be full of light; 23but if your eye is unhealthy, your whole body will be full of darkness. If then the light in you is darkness, how great is the darkness!
Matthew 6: 34  (NRSV)
‘So do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will bring worries of its own. Today’s trouble is enough for today.

Hope- what a special thing to reflect upon.  Narrowing down what gives me hope is difficult, since there are many things I draw inspiration from: secret smiles, twinkling eyes, ocean waves crashing and receding, guitar sing-a-longs, home cooked food, home grown food, long hugs, forts, pillows after a long day, thirst-quenching water, appreciating the presence of one other, resting in the comfort of each other’s living room eyes, reflecting on different stages of life, my incredible sisters, my dog, and so much more.  There are exquisite small moments in each day where connections are made, hands are held, and something beautiful is internalized.
There are also many moments of terrible sorrow, isolation, anxiety, anger, and disconnection where we don’t treat each other nearly as well as we want to, don’t feel nearly as cherished as we would like, and ignore or doubt the humanity of those we feel strongly hurt by and defensive against.  Grievous injustices happen globally, nationally, locally, and interpersonally on this campus every day between humans and amongst local and global ecosystems.   Life can be full of disappointment, discouragement, isolation, and anxiety, especially for employees of the college who continually get their benefits slashed or for seniors, like me, who still don’t have a job for next year ;-).  The culture in the US today is full of fear and distrust.  Fear over not being able to support one’s self, fear of not having enough money, distrust of the government, distrust of those who are different from us, distrust of the TSA, distrust of airplane passengers, the list goes on.
But I mean not to focus on things that are discouraging, for many places like to preach discouragement and it doesn’t interest me too much.  Sure, it’s very seductive to get swept away in the tide of despair and I do from time to time, but what gives me hope are the forces that bring me back. 
The two readings I picked today were very hard to arrive at since those of you who know me know I am a magpie who compulsively collects quotes and it is very difficult for me to focus attention on a couple passages, especially given the breadth of literature I look to as scripture.  However, it seemed appropriate to include some Bible passages, so I would love to reflect first on the quote from Matthew.   This passage “where your treasure is, there your heart will be also” originally caught my eye in Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows when Albus Dumbledore, a man whose wisdom I deeply appreciate, quotes the passage on a tombstone of his mother and sister.   This line comes from Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount, (Jesus is someone whose wisdom I also deeply appreciate) and I love how Matthew quotes these lines “Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth …. But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven….  For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.”  I love the focus of integrating one’s treasure and one’s heart- putting what one cares about most deeply and what one connects with most profoundly as the organizing principle of one’s life.  Treasuring that which pulls at one’s heart strings and recognizing that when one is accumulating treasures one is actually orienting one’s heart.  This is a radically different message than ones that fuel intense anxiety over not having enough money and push people to work at jobs they hate or pursue careers or majors solely because they think they should.  The passage goes on to read “The eye is the lamp of the body. So, if your eye is healthy, your whole body will be full of light”.  I love this focus on perspective and how important our own views are in creating the reality we see and in turn the reality that exists.  How willing we are to be open to life in its complexities and intricacies can impact the light we are able to retain and emit.  
Before I go on to the quote from Khalil Gibran, I want to share a poem with you that is very near to my heart and links the two concepts I think the readings from the Prophet and the Bible highlight.   This poem is called Wild Geese by Mary Oliver. 
Wild Geese 

You do not have to be good.
You do not have to walk on your knees
for a hundred miles through the desert, repenting.
You only have to let the soft animal of your body
love what it loves.
Tell me about despair, yours, and I will tell you mine.
Meanwhile the world goes on.
Meanwhile the sun and the clear pebbles of the rain
are moving across the landscapes,
over the prairies and the deep trees,
the mountains and the rivers.
Meanwhile the wild geese, high in the clean blue air,
are heading home again.
Whoever you are, no matter how lonely,
the world offers itself to your imagination,
calls to you like the wild geese, harsh and exciting--
over and over announcing your place
in the family of things.
I think this poem connects the message of loving what you love, and not needing to worry, for now, getting to rest, for now, that Matthew brings, with the wisdom of sharing despair and honoring the despair you carry that Gibran highlights.  “Tell me about despair, yours, and I will tell you mine”
While I have thus far talked about things I draw inspiration from, I would like to shift and speak directly to the question- what gives me hope?  For that Gibran’s words are central.  “"Your joy is your sorrow unmasked. And the selfsame well from which your laughter rises was oftentimes filled with your tears. How else can it be?  The deeper that sorrow carves into your being, the more joy you can contain."
Tears give me hope.   Tears, to me, are one of the most hopeful expressions of humanity we have.  People cry for many different reasons- pride, joy, relief, anguish, sorrow, confusion, loneliness, and more.  Regardless of the reason, when people cry they are intensely engaging in what it means to be human- what it means to break one’s heart, to carve out a well for joy to enter into. 
Tears are a deeply human response to a broken world.  They signify a human soul grasping to understand and to make meaning of a situation.  In disturbingly traumatic situations one doesn’t always see tears.  Often people who are experience atrocities like genocide, war, intense discrimination, sexual assault, and more become completely numb.  This numbness is a brilliant response to a dangerous, terrifying situation and to a sensory and emotional overload that is completely unable to be processed. 
However, there is a moment where weeks, months, or years later, people have enough resource in their lives where they’re able to safely process some of the traumatic events that have happened to them.  Suddenly, it becomes safe enough to feel things and the moment where they are finally able to break through the numbness and collapse in grief is deeply hopeful to me. 
The ability to feel, the permission to feel, comes from a recognition that something was wrong, something should have been otherwise, someone or many someones were hurt, and the internal grief or despair or discomfort we carry around with us is justified and we allow ourselves to feel it as boldly as we know how.  The recognition of hurt and the grieving of hurt cannot be done without the perspective that something could have happened differently and can happen differently.  One cannot grieve without a glimmer of hope that things can be different, without the resource and support to feel safe and comforted. 
 When one cries one incorporates events good or bad, back into one’s life and processes them as a continuous part of one’s being- instead of having a raw closed off corridor of one’s past.  Tears signify that someone is alive, intensely present, and celebrating or healing, the two often coexist. 
This is why I love these two passages together, and together they give me hope that tears are possible.  Gibran points out the tremendous work sorrow does in allowing us to feel joy and Matthew and Mary Oliver allow us to rest.  Oliver begins “You only have to let the soft animal of your body love what it loves. Tell me about despair, yours, and I will tell you mine. Meanwhile the world goes on” and Matthew chimes in “do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will bring worries of its own. Today's trouble is enough for today.”
My hope is that the treasures we accumulate in life are sacred, interconnected, and tied closely to our hearts so that it is impossible to lose sight of them.  I wish the same for all of us together, sharing this planet, that we see ourselves as sacred, interconnected and tied closely to each other’s hearts.  This gives me tremendous hope.

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