GNL Number 46

a report of doings at meeting #46, Sunday, March 20, 2011
including liturgical notes, major themes, and other odds and ends


INVOCATION

Hope is a much greater stimulant of life than any happiness.
—Friedrich Nietzsche

Peace of mind comes when you have lost hope.
—Arabic proverb


THEME

After reporting to us that Chris had been ill and couldn’t come today, Sue opened this discussion of HOPE, first quoting a dictionary source in which hope carried the suggestion of confidence and trust. She added several other quotes including part of Emily Dickinson’s famous Hope is the thing with feathers…, and spoke of hope as a powerful ground for persevering, trying, working; she recalled the hopeful in concentration camps who persisted and the hopeless who did not, citing the writings, e.g., of Primo Levi. And she also cited Thich Nhat Hanh, on how living in hope/the future, can sacrifice the present, where life happens. Her quotes follow in AFTERWORDS.

Anna C, here a second time and vowing to come regularly, told a story about her brother, who though stricken with cancer and in a bad marriage, survived with the help of his hopeful spirit, and is now also happily remarried. Anna then read a piece of wisdom she discovered years ago that has been a sustaining reminder to her ever since: Max Ehrmann’s poem, Desiderata. For this, please see AW.

We were also very happy to see Gail’s mom, Ginny, again for the first time in many moons. As we talked of hopeful spring and the return of birds and someone spoke of Florida residents probably not noticing spring, she mentioned the subtle changes in the seasons of her home state Florida that outsiders don’t see, and wise-cracked that spring’s the hopeful time of snowbirds returning north.

Ann brought a fine long list of quotes, from Alexander Pope’s well-worn  “Hope springs eternal in the human breast”  to the lesser-known but charming lines by Fogarty Weffing (?), and back again to classic, Martin Luther King,jr.: “If you lose hope, somehow, you lose the vitality that keeps life moving, you lose that courage to be, that quality that helps you go on in spite of it all.. And so today, I still have a dream.”   For the rest of her quotes, see AW.

Anna M fondly remembered her “maple syrup days”  years ago up in Summit, and she described with a bright smile the way one knew it was that most hopeful of times, when the days reached that warm temperature and the nights, their cold one, and you knew yes, the sap was running. Ah, spring on its way!

Erynne referred to her own continual juggling act between hope and worry—how difficult it is sometimes to tell the difference, and how often it seemed prayers were based in worry.  And she read us a lovely little poem by one of her favorite poets, Sara Teasdale, which paints a picture of the beauty of life at work, and thence hope. Please see AW.

It was also our pleasure to again have among us Cynthia’s daughter Tina. She responded to Erynne’s poem with her own recollection of the feeling of peace she has felt, sitting in the cool smoothness of the moonlight.  And Tina was also one of us who spoke of hope as a way or bridge to action.

Cynthia first referred to a note she had received from Adair, letting us know that she couldn’t be here today, as her friend Peggy had died and the memorial service was the day of our meeting. Adair had left a beautiful message on Hope though, which Cyn read, and this appears in AW. Cynthia then described a very current personal story, when her son’s regular long distance calls suddenly stopped and she has needed to call on her worry and hope and perseverance to get to the bottom of it.

Gail had googled Hope, and from the Wikipedia article, reminded us of the old Greek myth of Pandora’s Box, in which Pandora releases all the potent, evil emotions, with only hope remaining inside, more powerful than the others.  Here also, as well as earlier, a mention of the prisoner of war who retains his hope and acts to live, in contrast with the one who gives up hope and dies one way or the other. For the excerpt, see AW.

Nancy had four ideas about Hope.  As in spring, our cyclical springing back of life from “death”.  Then, how hope and faith seem different: hope—wanting things to be better and staying open to possibilities, and faith—feeling, living as if somehow it’s all OK.  She had also asked herself what boosts her hope and what dampens it. (See AW.)  And she recalled Buddhist masters, especially Pema Chodron’s teaching on the Mahayana slogan ” Abandon all hope of fruition”. (Living for the future, you lose the precious present.) See N,Q,& X in AW.

Our offering this day was given to the House of Flowers Orphanage in Afghanistan.


BENEDICTION

If we were logical, the future would be bleak, indeed.
But we are more than logical.
We are human beings, and we have faith,
and we have hope, and we can work.
—Jacques Yves Cousteau

To love means loving the unlovable.
To forgive means pardoning the unpardonable.
Faith means believing the unbelievable.
Hope means hoping when everything seems hopeless.
—British writer G. K. Chesterton


NEXT TIME

Sunday, April 10 (1030), at Sue’s house, on Quarry Street, Cobleskill. (Unless we have a last-minute change with Jack deciding he feels up to having us at his place.  In which case you’ll get an email notice a couple days before the meeting.) The topic is “God”/ the Ultimate / the Universe / the Force / the Divine Reality.


AFTERWORDS

from Sue:

  • HOPE: Dictionary definition:
    hope (h½p) v. hoped, hop·ing, hopes. –intr. 1. To wish for something with expectation of its fulfillment. 2. Archaic. To have confidence; trust. –tr. 1. To look forward to with confidence or expectation: 5. Archaic. Trust; confidence.
    [Middle English hopen, from Old English hopian.] –hop“er n.
    O.E. hopian “wish, expect, look forward (to something)
    M.H.G. hoffen “to hope,” borrowed from Low German). Some suggest a connection with hop (v.) on the notion of “leaping in expectation.”

Quotations-Negative and positive

  • “In reality, hope is the worst of all evils, because it prolongs man’s torments.” ~Friedrich Nietzsche, Human, All Too Human, 1878
  • “He that lives upon hope will die fasting.” ~Benjamin Franklin, Poor Richard’s Almanack
  • “If you knew that hope and despair were paths to the same destination, which would you choose?”
    Robert Brault
  • “We are all in the gutter, but some of us are looking at the stars.” ~Oscar Wilde
  • “Hope” is the thing with feathers—
    That perches in the soul—
    And sings the tune without the words—
    And never stops—at all—”
    ~Emily Dickinson
  • Amidah-Jewish prayer—to illustrate hope as an opening of the heart to possibilities
    Kedushat Ha Yom (We Open Ourselves to the Sacred in Shabbat)
    “May our hearts be open to envision a world yet to be,
    A world of fulfillment, justice and peace.
    We’ll rest and celebrate on Shabbat, Your sacred day.
    Lifting our voices as one, we’ll delight in our love for each other,
    A foretaste of the way things will be.”

from Anna C:

“Desiderata”


Go placidly amid the noise and the haste,

and remember what peace there may be in silence.
As far as possible, without surrender,

be on good terms with all persons.

Speak your truth quietly and clearly;

and listen to others,

even to the dull and the ignorant;

they too have their story.

Avoid loud and aggressive persons;

they are vexatious to the spirit.
If you compare yourself with others,

you may become vain or bitter,

for always there will be greater and lesser persons than yourself.

Enjoy your achievements as well as your plans.

Keep interested in your own career, however humble;

it is a real possession in the changing fortunes of time.
Exercise caution in your business affairs,

for the world is full of trickery.

But let this not blind you to what virtue there is;

many persons strive for high ideals,

and everywhere life is full of heroism.

Be yourself. Especially do not feign affection.

Neither be cynical about love,

for in the face of all aridity and disenchantment,

it is as perennial as the grass.
Take kindly the counsel of the years,

gracefully surrendering the things of youth.

Nurture strength of spirit to shield you in sudden misfortune.

But do not distress yourself with dark imaginings.

Many fears are born of fatigue and loneliness.
Beyond a wholesome discipline,

be gentle with yourself.

You are a child of the universe

no less than the trees and the stars;

you have a right to be here.

And whether or not it is clear to you,

no doubt the universe is unfolding as it should.
Therefore be at peace with God,

whatever you conceive Him to be.

And whatever your labors and aspirations,

in the noisy confusion of life,

keep peace in your soul.
With all its sham, drudgery, and broken dreams,

it is still a beautiful world.

Be cheerful. Strive to be happy.
(written by Max Ehrmann in the 1920s)

 

from Ann:

Hope

  • “We don’t see things as they are, we see them as we are.” ~Anais Nin
  • “We either make ourselves miserable or we make ourselves strong, the amount of work is the same.” ~Don Juan speaking in Carlos Castaneda’s Journey to Ixtlan
  • “At first people refuse to believe that a strange new thing can be done. Then they begin to hope it can be done. Then they see it can be done. Then it is done and all the world wonders why it was not done centuries ago.” ~Frances Hodgson Burnett
  • “Measure the success of your day not by what you have harvested but by the seeds you have planted.” ~message recently found in Chinese fortune cookie
  • Stressed spelled backward is desserts.
  • “Worrying does not empty tomorrow of it’s troubles, it empties today of its strength” ~Anonymous
  • “Hope is action…. Hope posits that people are drawn to the good by the good. This is the secret of hope’s power. Hope demands for others what we demand for ourselves. Hope does not separate us from them. Hope sees in our enemy our own face.” ~Chris Hedges, at Veterans for Peace White House Civil Disobedience to End War action, December 16, 2010.
  • HOPE, n. Desire and expectation rolled into one.
    Delicious Hope! when naught to man it left —
    Of fortune destitute, of friends bereft;
    When even his dog deserts him, and his goat
    With tranquil disaffection chews his coat
    While yet it hangs upon his back; then thou,
    The star far-flaming on thine angel brow,
    Descendest, radiant, from the skies to hint
    The promise of a clerkship in the Mint.
    ~Ambrose Bierce Devil’s Dictionary
  • “The very least you can do in your life is to figure out what you hope for. And the most you can do is live inside that hope.” ~Barbara Kingsolver
  • Far away there in the sunshine are my highest aspirations. I may not reach them but I can look up and see their beauty, believe in them, and try to follow them. ~Louisa May Alcott
  • We must accept finite disappointment, but we must never lose infinite hope. ~Martin Luther King Jr.
  • The day the Lord created hope was probably the same day he created Spring. Bern Williams
  • If you lose hope, somehow you lose the vitality that keeps life moving, you lose that courage to be, that quality that helps you go on in spite of it all. And so today I still have a dream. ~ Martin Luther King, Jr.
  • It’s a lot better to hope than not to. ~ Benjamin J. Stein
  • At first we hope too much; later on, not enough. ~ Joseph Roux
  • Hope springs eternal in the human breast. ~ Alexander Pope Hope
  • Were it not for hope the heart would break. ~ Scottish Proverb
  • Things never go so well that one should have no fear, and never so ill that one should have no hope. ~ Turkish proverb
  • and from the film, The Shawshank Redemption:
    Andy Dufresne: That’s the beauty of music. They can’t get that from you… Haven’t you ever felt that way about music?
    
Red: I played a mean harmonica as a younger man. Lost interest in it though. Didn’t make much sense in here.
    
Andy: Here’s where it makes the most sense. You need it so you don’t forget.
    
Red: Forget?
    
Andy: Forget that… there are places in this world that aren’t made out of stone. That there’s something inside… that they can’t get to, that they can’t touch. That’s yours.
    
Red: What’re you talking about?
    
Andy: Hope
    Andy [in letter to Red]: Remember Red, hope is a good thing, maybe the best of things, and no good thing ever dies.
  • What emotions can full your heart and/or bring tears to your eyes – the strongest ones, such as hate, love, pain…hope. Hope is on a par, at least, with the negative emotions.

from Adair:

I wanted to share a statement, author unknown, sent to me by my daughter. I believe friends provide hope. I also think that the life drive, which does everything possible to keep any organism alive, creates hope, as life itself is always change, and change has at least the possibility of improvement, and thus, hope:


  • “Oh the comfort, the inexpressible comfort of feeling safe with a person, having neither to weigh thoughts nor measure words, but pouring them all right out, just as they are- chaff and grain together- certain that a faithful hand will take and sift them, keep what is worth keeping, and with the breath of kindness, blow the rest away-“~Anonymous


Let us welcome spring with love and peace in our hearts.~Adair

(editors’ note:)  A later message from Adair said that a few days after her friend Peggy’s passing, her daughter Robbin’s husband, who had been ill for some time, also died. Many of you will remember Robbin from earlier COS meetings. Please keep them both in you thoughts.

from Erynne:

Full Moon

I listened, there was not a sound to hear

In the great rain of moonlight pouring down,

The eucalyptus trees were carved in silver,

And a light mist of silver lulled the town.
I saw far off the gray Pacific bearing

A broad white disk of flame,

And on the garden-walk a snail beside me

Tracing in crystal the slow way he came.

~Sara Teasdale

from Gail:

Hope was personified in Greek mythology as Elpis[2]. When Pandora opened Pandora’s Box, she let out all the evil except one: hope. It may be worthy to note that in the story, hope is in effect far more potent than any of the major evils, which include lust and envy. One man loves Hope because of her beauty, smile, and personality. In some faiths and religions of the world, hope plays a very important role. Hope can be passive in the sense of a wish, or active as a plan or idea, often against popular belief, with persistent, personal action to execute the plan or prove the idea. Consider a prisoner of war who never gives up hope for escape and, against the odds, plans and accomplishes this. By contrast, consider another prisoner who simply wishes or prays for freedom, but without genuine hope, or another who gives up all hope of freedom. ~Wikipedia

from Nancy:

a couple notes—

  • What dampens my hope?  The way our culture, even species, has been living—the way our brand of capitalism has enabled this country to become a protectorate for the wealthy—the way we have been asleep and dreaming a poisoned distortion of the American dream that says get yours and never mind others, or the Earth.
  • What boosts my hope?  The recent popular uprisings against injustice, from the Middle East to Midwest USA. And everyday in my midst, small individual acts of bravery, kindness, determination to help, live with others for the common welfare, not just selves. And always, always, the fresh faith and zest of children.

a couple quotes—

  • Nothing that is worth doing can be achieved in a lifetime; therefore we must be saved by hope. — theologian Reinhold Niebuhr
  • Hope, the best comfort of our imperfect condition. —historian Edward Gibbon

and a couple excerpts—

  • As long as you have an orientation toward the future, you can never just relax into what you already have or already are.  One of the deepest habitual patterns that we have is to feel that now is not good enough…. One of the things that keeps us unhappy is this continual searching for pleasure or security…. —Pema Chodron, in Start Where You Are
  • (But) there’s a life-affirming teaching in Buddhism, which is that Buddha, which means “awake”, is not someone you worship….or aspire to…or smarter than you’ll ever be.  Buddha is our inherent nature….and what that means is that if you’re going to grow up fully, the way that it happens is that you begin to connect with that intelligence you already have….Instead of looking for fruition, we could just try to stay with our open heart and open mind. This is very much oriented to the present.   By entering into this kind of unconditional relationship with ourselves, we can begin to connect with the awake quality we already have. —Pema, in Comfortable With Uncertainty
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