Regular readers of this blog know that have mentored a great group of young men since they were in elementary school (going on 17 years now!). One of the young men and his partner of 7 years and they have three boys ages 10, 5 and 3. The oldest is the mother’s son from a previous relationship, but the young man I mentor acts as his father and treats him like a son. Both the young man I mentor and his partner lost their minimum wage jobs this year and became homeless, losing all of their possessions because they had no where to put them. They are both now working – the young man since summer and his partner since October and are trying hard to get back on their feet. They rarely ask of anything of me except moral support, but I told them I wanted to help with Christmas. They have good hearts and are defying many statistics – no drugs, no arrests, no abuse, raising children together – but they still face a lot of struggles. I’m working with them and friends to try to get them into a house where they will pay rent, but the owner is willing to work with them on a rent to own plan the next 20 years which is an amazing thing for them and we are also working on GEDs so that they can try to get better jobs – she would like to be a nurse and he loves to cook and would like to work his way up in a kitchen somewhere. They desperately want to provide a better life for their children. I told them I would take care of Christmas (they protest every year, as they are proud, but I insisted). We’ve covered a lot of it and also tried to get donations from friends here who have boys the same age and have extras to give to them. However, since so much was lost in being homeless (they are currently in a precarious, overcrowded situation with extended family) they have a lot of needs. I made an amazon wish list for them here http://amzn.com/w/1D8EO82EXCGS3. There is no pressure AT ALL, however, if you’d like to help out and buy a little thing for them, they and the boys would be very appreciative. I’ll try to deliver everything to them by December 15 or 17.
When I was in Kindergarten, I had a bit of a breakdown. I felt like I was not moving through my letter books fast enough. The other children were slow to learn the ABCs and I already knew them and we needed to move it along. I dropped out of Girl Scouts in third grade because I got so preoccupied with getting as.many.badges.as.possible as fast as possible that I could not enjoy it. Or get anything out of it.
It goes on. In seventh grade, it was getting to be the editor of the school newspaper and yearbook. As fast as possible. And making them better. Fast. By high school, it was starting to take college classes. Filling out the resume for college. After a full scholarship to my undergraduate school, it was getting more majors. And more awards. So I could go to the best graduate school. After getting into a graduate program at Harvard, it was getting into the doctoral program at Harvard. Then passing exams. With distinction. Then writing a dissertation. I wouldn’t just be spiritual or religious or involved in my church, I would be ordained. Soon it was getting a job. After getting a tenure track job, the big concern has been the getting a book contract. And being the.best.professor possible. I want my students to love learning, love the class, love me, become good citizens, become good thinkers. Somewhere in there: Get married. Buy a house. Have a baby.
I am tired. If I stop to think about what a good life looks like, I hardly know. When I am with my son, who I want more time with, I am worried about when I can clean the house. Or get back to grading. As the trees change and the air is perfect, I look out the window from Starbucks with my overly sweet drink and write more comments on the papers that my students will probably never read. As I apply for grants and funding, my screen blurs together and I wonder what I am doing. I pour over our budget and wonder how we can make what we do and still come up short at the end of every month. What are we doing all of this for if not to be able to pay our bills and have a good, peaceful life, right? A PEACEFUL LIFE, goddammit.
We are caught in a hologram. I feel caught in it, but there is no red pill, no way to step out of it, to snap out of it and I think about what I should do to get out – meditate, go to yoga, take time to be present, make better plans, manage time better, get therapy, read more books or better books, and I just add these things onto my to do list and run from meeting to class to meeting, somehow feeling good about myself as I ease the pain with the balm of doing.
I tell my students there are few important easy choices in our lives – as individuals, as citizens. And there may not even be a choice. We are formed over time and our brains develop little pathways and we do not undo this in a day or a night or by getting saved or by making definitive decisions that we really mean this time. We undo or redo this slowly, the way that we have been done up by our universe. Moment by moment. Dragging ourselves back from the chaos into the memory of what we all long for, aware of the cliche and the unoriginality of our desires.
These things are not changed by quotes we tape to our computer screen or put on our pinterest wall, we know, as we hurriedly find better pithy and inspirational quotes and clearer places to post them.
Perhaps this is my draw to God and grace. The idea that I am loved and ok always. From before time and until after time. No matter what I do. I want to believe it, but like the alcoholic who just has one more drink, and feels that emptiness and pain melting away, I have one more good line on my resume. One more grant or book or job or success. And I am good, right? Doing the right things. We are doing the right things, right?
I am thinking a lot about hope for the future these days, and also trust in government. A recent commenter said this:
I think there is something really positive about feeling good about Obama in itself. If people are behind him and positive whatever change he can actually make will be more effective than if people are totally cynical. I’d rather feel hopeful (perhaps with a sense of reality) about a president doing mediocre things than to be disparaging about a president doing mediocre things even if the outcome is the same.
Thoughts? Is it good to be hopeful even if it isn’t very founded, or it is based on mediocrity? Is it good to trust government even if it isn’t very founded, even if the government isn’t THAT trustworthy? Does it somehow make for a better democracy? Are hope and trust important values in and of themselves, or just ways of indulging our idealism and desire for things to be different?
p.s. On the off chance that someone knows literature that deals with these questions, I would love to know about it.
I thought ChaliceChick was pretty amusing today when she said this – she remembers what it was like to be a Hillary supporter when
Obama was made of kittens and fairydust and was going to change politics forever and ever.
I try not to get too involved in politics since I live with Mr. Political Science who is involved enough with it for both of us, but I still thought this was funny. I think of my wise friend who is the benefactor of this blog when she was visiting last summer: she said, “If it was easy or even possible to be non-partisan and work together well with the Republicans, lots of people would have done it already. It isn’t like anyone hasn’t thought of that before.” Not that I don’t appreciate his efforts and the nice words he says, but it seems that this whole post-partisan change new world we-can-do-it is just a lot harder than he thought.
Not to be all anti-Obama, because I think he is just fine, just not nearly as good as he said he was going to be and everyone thought he would be, it does remind me of this cartoon which I find amusing.
Just some random thoughts on another rainy day….
I am working on a project about the understanding of hope in Unitarian Universalism. It has a more contemporary focus, but draws on older texts too. Do you know of a Unitarian Universalist sermon on hope? An article? Book? Blog post? Something else? Post it in the comments. Link to your blog. Sermon. Or something else. Self-promote!
p.s. If you know of academic literature on hope (theology, philosophy or really anything else) I would love to know about that too.