Friday, October 28, 2011

Faith, Hope and Charity

A generation of people face depression, despair and meaninglessness as the full significance of the resource constraints of fossil fuels, water, land and food coupled with environmental degradation and overshoot of the global population become a loud noise that can no longer be ignored. This is trauma in the true psychological meaning of the word.
Many of us will encounter failed attempts when our efforts of the past produce no viable results. In fact, we will experience a disconnect between the then and the now. We will see no light at the end of the tunnel. Filled with the emotionality of grieving, our anger and fear will motivate our choices, narrow our tolerance and send us searching for scapegoats. Many of us will become entrenched in magical thinking and condemn the unbelieving.
Faith is believing that my efforts will give me results. This belief is based on personal experience of previous effective action. It can also be based on the belief that certain actions (prayer, positive thoughts, repetitive behavior) will provide results. It is a belief that the possible can be accomplished. And some times what does not seem possible. These beliefs can be based on direct true cause and effect such as letting go of a china cup will make it fall and possibly break. It can be based on assumed cause and effect such as a drop of coffee falls on the name of a stock in the paper and it goes up that day. Or it can be based on any number of beliefs that are held and continuously reinforced regardless of the statistical possibilities or improbabilities in the known reality.
Being without faith is helplessness; it is depression. It is a feeling of not inadequacy but no adequacy. Faith dies when previous actions do not solve. It is not being able to change/control the circumstances or environment or behaviors that in the past seemed to be changeable/controllable. Depression has been called anger turned inward. If it were turned outward it would be aimed at the circumstances/environment/behaviors (persons) that are creating the feeling of helplessness. Depression is related to the past. It arises when all our adaptations fail to be effective. The energy of depression is pervasive, a mood and in the gut.
Hope is based on positive possibilities for the next minute, day, year. It is fueled by a belief in a just world. Without hope there is despair. It has to do with the future. It is a fear of a continuation of the present situation. It is same old, same old. It is also the feeling that there is no freedom from the repetition of the patterns of adaptation. These patterns are unsuccessful in getting our needs met and they will go on and on and on. So the future is bleak and hopeless.
Charity is about relationship with the self and other. Too much self is filled with greed and amorality. Too much other enables without discrimination. To the self, charity is giving and caring not in gluttony but in honoring. Charity to others strengthens all the communities of the web we live in. It is experiencing the oneness of being. The oneness can guide us but we must live in the webs of our particular life and recognize the boundaries. Charity is being gentle. It is about balance. It is the challenge of knowing when each is needed.
Without the fullness of charity, being is meaningless. Without being connected, we live in an angst of aloneness.
Depression rises out of the gut from the energy of a failed past and flows into the head dampening action. Despair arises out of the mind because the idea of a future is in the head. Despair flows into the gut dampening the emotional energy for action. Charity is the connection to the heart. The heart without meaning is meanness to self, it is meanness to others.
As humans, in the process of becoming, we learn faith, hope and charity particular to our human world. They can be learned in narrow, restricted, restrictive, and self-defeating ways. The first half of life is learning these ways of being and then working diligently to express them: we actually create/define the world to reinforce them.
The second half of life, with enough experiences to see the patterns, is filled with finding our faith, hope and charity. Without it we become trapped in the arising experiences of depression, despair and meaninglessness.
In February of 2003, I was diagnosed with a huge cancerous tumor growing out of my right lung. I was given weeks to live without treatment and minimal odds with treatment.
My wood-cooking stove heated my home as well as that was how I cooked my food. I had lived this way, off-the-grid, for 30 years. In Minnesota, in March and April during treatment, it was cold so I need wood for heating as well as cooking. My kindly neighbor Dan came over and split some of my wood for me. (I love splitting wood so left it to be split each day.) However, I still needed to split some myself.
My treatment consisted of radiation 5 days a week and chemotherapy one day a week. Either one alone is tough, both together are quite debilitating. Almost everyday during the seven weeks of treatment, I would split wood. I would cook on the wood cook stove.
I never thought I would die. I don’t believe this was denial. Within a week of diagnosis I had taken care of all the necessary legal things should I die.
When I gave a speech at the RelayForLife activities for cancer that take place here in the United States, I told the people that hope was doing. For me there were two types of doing. The first was splitting the wood to cook and heat. It had to be done and it was part of living each day.
The second is what I did when I was through with the cancer treatment and it was declared in remission. I went to a billboard company and arranged for billboards to be put up around central Minnesota. I arranged with schools all around the area to speak to students about not smoking. During the time I was doing this I spoke with over 2000 young people. There were as many as ten billboards put up; two were put up and paid for by students at two different schools by holding bake sales.
The splitting of the wood was necessity. It was necessary doing connected with hope. The speaking with students all around Central and Northern Minnesota, the billboards and the T-shirts with the picture on it arose in me and had a life of its own. It was hope doing me.

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