Listening Post #29: A Hopeful Suggestion

Listening Post #29: A Hopeful Suggestion

I haven’t written a post on this blog in over 6 months, despite the fact that every week I hear stories worth repeating, stories from the social margins of amazing resilience, courage, desperation, despair, triumph, failure, shame, and transforming love… just about everything the human spirit can experience. And every week I think, “I should write about that”. But I have found myself paralyzed, wary of being preachy, unable to tell these stories in a way that invites a deeper dive into what it means to be human, how we are all connected to each other, how all of these stories are actually my story, and yours.

I am not interested in evoking guilt, complaining about ineffectual politicians, or repeating the scandalous though now-familiar statistics of gross and growing economic inequality in the US. These activities just create more anger, or numbness, or indifference. I AM interested in having us become deeply aware that we all have the same needs and are all entitled, simply by virtue of our common humanity, both to having those basic needs met and to each other’s kindness and assistance. If you are hungry, my belly rumbles. If you cry, I taste salt. None of us are safe until ALL of us are safe.

So here we are in the season of feasting and celebration, a time of year that feels particularly conflicted. I fully embrace the spirit of thanksgiving and celebration, even as I witness the anguish of hungry people in food lines that grow longer by the day, and listen to the human impact of the suffering, poverty, and violence that is so much a part of our unequal human equation.

In a spirit of gratitude for what is right with the world, though, I would like to propose a hopeful exercise for your holidays: I just discovered a 2012 documentary that makes me want to hold round the clock public screenings and discussions in my living room. It is filmmaker Tom Shadyac’s I Am.: The Documentary (available on Netflix , Amazon, Comcast, or through Gaiam TV).

The film begins by interviewing and asking prominent thinkers and leaders two questions: “What’s wrong with the world,” and What can we do about it”, and ends by asking and answering a third, “What’s right with the world?”

This film made me so happy and hopeful, I need to share it: It reminds us of what we truly know, so deep in our bones.

• We are hard-wired for compassion, connection, and cooperation.

• We experience joy when we act out of that compassion.

• Our future as a species is dependent upon us grasping this essential fact : We are One. There is no such thing as an insignificant act; everything we do has an effect on the whole. Love is the most powerful force, and binds us all together.

Peter Maurin, Co-founder of the Catholic Worker, wrote that we need “to make a society in which it is easier for people to be good”. That task can feel overwhelming in the face of so much suffering and injustice. But watching this film gives each of us an idea about how we can do our small part to create the world we all hunger for. So give yourself a 2.5 minute treat right now and watch the trailer. Find just a few hours during the next month to gather with family, friends, and acquaintances to watch and discuss this movie. Absorb its hopeful and essential message….what’s right with the world (no spoiler here….watch to find out what that is). And then figure out one small step that you can take to make a world in which it is easier to be good, and take it.

It will make you happy, and thankful, and change the world.

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