I left yesterday’s church service (at Miami Valley Unitarian Universalist Fellowship)—during which Peter Mayer delivered both his music and an inspirational “sermon”—feeling hopeful and optimistic. The subsequent barrage of horrifying news since then has squelched that emotional high. Another mass shooting, this one in Allen, Texas, that left 8 or 9 dead and more injured. Several other shootings involving multiple victims. A car crash in Brownsville, Texas that killed many Venezuelan immigrants. The Oklahoma governor’s veto of funding of the state’s PBS funding, potentially eliminating a resource that helps counter an increasingly visible bigotry that threatens to utterly decimate our nation’s social contract.
As I think back on the message of hope carried in yesterday’s church service, I wonder whether hope in today’s society equates with gullibility. Was I extremely naive to leave the service with my upbeat mood and my feeling that UUs have the ability to change the world by modeling human decency? I am afraid the “models” are badly outnumbered. Every instance of benevolence seems to be countered by dozens or hundreds of examples of malevolence. The mythology of David and Goliath is fiction; I think we hold onto the parable because reality—the recognition that hope is an impossible illusion—is too hard to bear.
What is the point of trying to hold onto hope when almost all the signs point to despondency as the appropriate response to one’s inability to have any measurable impact on the degradation of the ties that bind us together? That sense, the feeling that one is powerless even to slow the descent into chaos, makes our little efforts—such as recycling, promoting rational limits on guns, trying to eliminate racism and homophobia and sexism—pointless.
This morning, I lean toward selfishness in one’s personal sphere as the most rational response to a world sliding into self-destructive rage. Protect oneself and those one holds close. When necessary, do so at the expense of others. Embrace desire and avarice.
No. Even in my morose state of mind, I cannot bring myself to lose all hope. I cannot mimic the deranged and greedy politicians and their supporters. But I can avoid them to the extent possible. I can steer clear of the masses. I can write fantasy and convince myself to live it. But it is hard to compare yesterday’s messages with today’s reality. Perhaps listening to Peter Mayer’s performance of Holy Now will make the process easier.