Hope is a muscle.

GQ: On Being sometimes seems like an outlier in today’s culture, in terms of its themes: patience, civility, mystery, asking questions rather than supplying answers. Why do you think it has resonated so deeply?

And simple ones.

Or something we can implement now.

Do you have hope that we’re going to get them back on the right track?

I think that hope is a muscle. The hope that I see to be transformative and modeled in very wise people who have shifted something in their world—civil rights leaders to [social justice activist] Bryan Stevenson to [labor activist] Ai-jen Poo—it’s not [idealistic]. I don’t use the word idealism. I don’t use the word optimism. It’s not wishful thinking. It’s not assuming that things will turn out all right. It’s an insistence, looking at the world straight on as it is and rejecting the idea that it has to be that way, and then throwing your light and your pragmatism as much as your spirit at [that]. What does it look like if you don’t accept it? That’s how I think of it…

One of the criticisms that gets lobbed at these conversations is that they’re too—and I know you just said you don’t like this word—idealistic, and perhaps not as important as conversations about politics or policy. You worked in Berlin in the 1980s and you saw geopolitics up close and personal, what it can do and the effect it can have on people’s lives. And yet you still came away to have these conversations. So you seem uniquely suited to respond to someone who’s skeptical, who says, why do these conversations matter?

We have a bias—which I also inherited, it’s in our education—to take what is dysfunctional and catastrophic and frightening and failing more seriously than what works well and what is quietly flourishing. The bias is a really powerful one. We’re learning about our bodies and brains—which is an incredible frontier. They’re so mobilized by threat or fear. There’s a level at which we’re so sophisticated, and then there’s this animal creature. We don’t investigate: what is generative? This is one of the motivations for me in starting the show. The question for me in the beginning is, how can we make goodness as riveting as evil and destruction? …

In science fiction, or even at the far edges of quantum physics, you hold this idea that there are parallel universes; that there are equal realities that may be wildly divergent. Because I have trained my eyes on this, I’m looking for it, I see it. There’s a phrase that came out of a study about the incredible health benefits from an intentional practice of gratitude: Take in the good. It’s not even about getting more optimistic. It’s just saying, I’m going to attend to that. I’m going to give that my attention. Maybe that’s the spiritual practice. That has become a discipline [for me]. What we practice becomes instinctive.

Krista Tippett, excerpts from “Hope is a Muscle”: Why Krista Tippett Wants You to Keep the Faith” in an interview with Clay Skipper. (GQ, July 21, 2022)

a promise of everything the day ahead might hold

Becky that morning had awakened before dawn… She lay in the dark and listened to the tick and wheeze of the radiator, the struggling clank of pipes below. As if for the first time, she appreciated the goodness of being snug in a house on a cold morning. Also, no less, the goodness of the cold, which made the snugness possible; the two things fit together like a pair of mouths…

When the alarm clock went off in her parents’ bedroom, one door over from hers, it wasn’t the usual cruel morning sound but a promise of everything the day ahead might hold. When she heard the faint buzz of her father’s shaver and the footsteps of her mother in the hallway, she was amazed she’d never noticed, until today, how precious ordinary life was and how lucky she was to be a part of it. So much goodness. Other people were good. She herself was good. She felt goodwill to all mankind.

Jonathan Franzen, Crossroads: A Novel (Farrar, Straus and Giroux, October 5, 2021)

Turn it.

john-cage

There is a tendency in the West to be convinced of the badness of human nature… It is essential that we be convinced of the goodness of human nature, and we must act as though people are good. We have no reason to think that they are bad. […]

I noticed in New York, where the traffic is so bad and the air is so bad … you get into a taxi and very frequently the poor taxi driver is just beside himself with irritation. And one day I got into one and the driver began talking a blue streak, accusing absolutely everyone of being wrong. You know he was full of irritation about everything, and I simply remained quiet. I did not answer his questions, I did not enter into a conversation, and very shortly the driver began changing his ideas and simply through my being silent he began, before I got out of the car, saying rather nice things about the world around him.

~ John Cage, in Richard Kostelanetz’s Conversing with Cage


Notes:

“So I decided to start bowing to everyone who crossed my path.  Just a little teeny bow of my head.  Just enough to remind myself not to be a jerk, since no matter who I’m talking to, whether it’s a child, or a principal, or a gas station attendant, or a frenemy, or Craig, it’s GOD I’m talking to. And as I bow, I say Namaste, God in me recognizes and honors God in you. I just think Namaste in my head, like the way Orthodox Jews wear a yarmulke to remind themselves that they are living under the hand of God.  Or how Muslims pray five times a day to remind themselves of whom they serve.  The world and the people in it are so beautiful when you are awake.  And so the bowing and the silent Nameste is just a little practice to remind myself what’s real.  What an amazing life I’m leading and what a gift the people I meet are to me. I know all of this might sound a little nuts, but I have decided that I am just over worrying about that.  Robin P. Williams said, “You’re only given a spark of madness.  You mustn’t lose it.”  And maybe the world needs some crazy love.  So I am embracing my spark of madness.  Fanning it, even.  And I’m bowing.  And something’s happening because of it.  It’s working.  I’m starting to see God everywhere.

~ Glennon Doyle Melton,  Carry On, Warrior:  The Power of Embracing Your Messy, Beautiful Life

I knew him to be wrong. We all had them once.

black and white, photography,parent

“At five, I had the intuitive, instinctive faith that my cosmos, my family and the world were good and true and beautiful. That somehow I had always been and always would be. And I knew in a way of a five-year-old that I had worth and dignity and individuality. Later, when I read Nietzsche’s statement that these are not given to us by nature but are tasks that we must somehow solve, I knew him to be wrong. We all had them once.”

~ George Sheehan, Running & Being


Notes:


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