So many are feeling despair today. Social cohesion, the glue of trust that tells us that most folks mean us well, is at a low. Many challenges confront us. Much of what we hear is a never ending tide of negativity. Too much noise, not enough wisdom, and no way to change things for the better.
I feel that too.
I began to read the Lord of the Rings in fifth grade. I wept when Gandalf died. I identified with Frodo and Sam. They were small. They were powerless. Or, perhaps their power seemed so small as to be irrelevant. Yet they packed their bags and left their beloved Hobbiton on a journey they could not foresee, with unknown dangers and a probable bad ending.
Near the journey’s end, Frodo expresses his despair, his exhaustion. But Sam has a stubborn and hopeful answer.
Frodo: I can’t do this, Sam.
Sam: I know. It’s all wrong. By rights we shouldn’t even be here. But we are. It’s like in the great stories, Mr. Frodo. The ones that really mattered. Full of darkness, and danger, they were. And sometimes you didn’t want to know the end, because how could the end be happy? How could the world go back to the way it was when so much bad had happened? But in the end, it’s only a passing thing, this shadow. Even darkness must pass. A new day will come. And when the sun shines, it’ll shine out the clearer. Those were the stories that stayed with you. That meant something. Even if you were too small to understand why. But I think, Mr. Frodo, I do understand. I know now. Folk in those stories had lots of chances of turning back, only they didn’t. They kept going. Because they were holding on to something.
Frodo: What are we holding on to, Sam?
Sam: That there’s some good in this world, Mr. Frodo…and it’s worth fighting for.”
If we sit around and wait for our feelings to change, for our despair to ebb and hope to arise, we will never leave our comfortable, lonely, and hopeless place.
What is required in this moment is something like what Soren Kierkegaard called, “A leap into faith.” That is, a leap into trust, into risk, into making an attempt. A leap into hope.
Sometimes our attitude changes our actions. But often, I have found that it is our actions that change our attitude. Despair cannot be met by talking, but by action with others who likewise are taking a leap into hope.
In all honesty, I couldn’t foresee the outcome of any of the work I have done in my life. I can’t predict what exactly the outcome of our new initiative Let’s Go Together will be. Like many of you, I sometimes think I can’t do this.
But then someone tells me to take the next step because there is good in our life, in our culture, in our society, in the earth. It’s worth fighting for. The Divine reminds me, through them, that I was put here to make the attempt.
The meaning of the attempt is enough for me.
So, when you say, “I can’t do this”, I want you to know that I hear you. I want you to know that I feel that, too. But the earth and our society is worth working for – and that work is meaningful in itself.
Turn off your TV. Close your social media app. Start out on a path of love and see where it takes you. At some point, you may feel beyond hope. But the Divine will remind you that the world is worth fighting for, and so are you.