hope and other non-sequiturs

Posted by on 04.12.09 | No Comments
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A couple weeks ago I posted on hope  and posited some ideas about both some things that I don’t hope for during these times, mostly that our lives return to what they were…and some things that I do hope for:

  • a return to knowing that we don’t want to live isolated lives
  • a return to knowing that families can share a place to live and work–maybe not ‘their own’ but where they can be productive and feel connected
  • a return to making and growing most of what we need and bartering for the rest
  • a return to artisanship
  • a return to shared sense of caring for our children, elders and other currently marginalized peoples as well as the animals and livestock entrusted to our care
  • a return to people knowing that their food doesn’t come from stores
  • a return to celebrations based on connection with the land and the cycles of the earth
  • a return to respect and thus wisdom for how the world really works

A friend responded to the post:

"I had trouble with the hope thing…this is what it made come up for me:  "I think I am learning not to hope, to be in the moment so completely that all there is is this moment and it is perfect, I guess my sin is that hope tends to bring despair and judgement that whatever is now is not what should be."

So, as per usual, I resonate both with hope and not-hope.  As I’ve been thinking about this month’s synchroblog on ‘faith in the midst of hard times’, I’ve come up with a few more potentially hopeful thoughts.  A story to start and end all stories:

When the Baal Shem Tov saw misfortune threatening the Jews, it was his custom to go into a certain part of the forest to meditate.  There he would light a special fire, say a special prayer, and the trouble would be averted. 

Later, when his disciple, the Rabbi Maggid of Mezritch, had occasion for the same reasons to intercede with heaven, he would go to the same place in the forest and say, ‘Master of the Universe, listen up! I cannot light the fire, but I know the place and I can say the prayer.’  And the troubles would be averted.

Still later, Rabbi Moshe-Leib of Sassov, in order to save his people, would go into that same forest and say, ‘I cannot light the fire, I do not know the prayer, but I know the place.’  And the troubles would be averted.

Then it fell to Reb Israel of Rizhyn to overcome the generational misfortune. Sitting in his house, his head in his hands, he spoke to G-d. ‘I am unable to light the fire and I do not know the prayer; I cannot find the place in the forest.  All I can do is tell the story, and this must be sufficient.‘  And it was.

Christmas Valley, Oregon 050

I find this story immensely hopeful. 

First, it illustrates the nature of prayer as deep connection and intimacy. 

Second, it highlights that these connections are embedded in our spiritual and possibly physical DNA,  imbued through word and thought and intent in mystical ways. 

And third, it shows that the essence of prayer is non-local and connected via our ancestors.  The Reb in Rizhyn, perhaps a couple hundred years after the Baal Shem Tov, praying for deliverance, was aided by prayers in a certain place, in a certain way, of a long dead ancestor.  

This then, is the prototype for knowing that our hope has efficacy.  Not that we as individuals are powerful, but that if we align our intentions, our will, our sweetness of being, with what we understand divine providence to be… plentitude and peace for all sentient beings…then we have surety of effect.  Not because of our individual prayer, but because of our alignment with the prayer that is being spoken across time, space, generations and language.  It is spoken from the heart of the Creator for its Created.

So my prayer for these times is associated with fire that burns in my heart at all times.  The fire is the transformer of my little prayers into the big prayer, the prayer for connection and peace for all beings. 

Hope doesn’t spring forth from our hearts easily in these times. Rather our humanity calls out for justice, for peace, for rest.  Rounding back to my friend’s question–is there perfection embedded in our situation?  Of course, how could it be otherwise?  Nevertheless, I’m with the Reb’s, out in the forest, insisting that there’s got to be a better way for us to live and thrive and grow our children.

These are not-wimpy times.  They call for not-wimpy prayers.  Mine is embedded in these words, and I believe in their efficacy, because I know they are attached to a long line of powerful prayers that I have no conscious connection to, but know they are ‘there’:


Whatever I have to see,

Whatever I have to feel,

Whatever I have to remember,

Whatever I have to go through,

If it is for my healing

And in the highest good of all beings,

I agree to it.



This post is part of a synchroblog.  Other posts will be linked below for beautiful thoughts on ‘faith in these hard times’ as they come on-line.

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