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Sunday, December 02, 2007

Hope

He who despairs over an event is a coward, but he who holds hope for the human condition is a fool. ~ Albert Camus, The Rebel (1951)

Today is the First Sunday of Advent. It is also the First Sunday of the Church’s Liturgical Year.

Advent means coming and in this season (mainline) Christians prepare for the coming of the Christ. One of the ways of preparation is by making an Advent wreath and lighting its candles as reminder of the gifts Christ brings to the world.

The gift celebrated on this First Sunday of Advent is Hope.

Many years ago, when I was a student at the University of Louisville’s Kent School of Social Work, one of my professors said that hope was the most evil teaching of all religions. He said that humans—and the world—were basically hope-less; there was no hope in the future, so we must depend upon ourselves alone.

The first thought his words evoked was Albert Camus’ explanation of The Myth of Sisyphus. Camus used Sisyphus's perpetual and futile pushing of that damned boulder to the top of the mountain only to see it roll back down again as a metaphor for our contemporary lives spent working at repeated tasks in offices and factories. We never consider the absurdity of our situations except, perhaps, as Camus observes, only at the rare moments when we becomes conscious of the absurdity of our work and existence.

My theological perspective is that without the hope that at some future time the boulder that Sisyphus was condemned to eternally push to the top of the mountain only to see it roll back down again would remain on the mountaintop, Sisyphus would go completely insane. Likewise, without some sense of hope that our existence is beyond absurdity—that there is something more to life than our lives spent working at repetitive tasks—we are condemned to the neurotic existence our society has created for us.

This is where the hope of Advent comes in. It is also why so many of us believe in something beyond ourselves. It is a primary function of our religion, being it Christian, Jewish, Islamic, Hindu, Buddhist, or any of the other myriad faiths practiced in our world.

Christians celebrate on this First Sunday of Advent the gift of hope—hope that our lives are not futile; that something lies beyond our absurdity.

I, for one, need that hope!


Hope abides; therefore I abide.
Countless frustrations have not cowed me.
I am still alive, vibrant with life.
The black cloud will disappear,
The morning sun will appear once again
In all its supernal glory. ~ Sri Chinmoy

23 comments:

  1. A litle bit of hope needed over here too! :o)
    What a beautiful and poignant entry Nick. Thank you. :o) x

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  2. Its daffy by the way but I'm afraid I can't get my name to come up...I've done the same on ThomasLBs place... sorry. :o)

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  3. The Irony is Not the size&weight of the Boulder.Rather, the fact that many folk dont even see it or know they are even pushing!

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  4. I agree Nick. I feel that where there is no hope; there is no life. Cheers!!

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  5. I think hope is the thing which kindles and maintains our belief in faith.
    Hope is the promise we hold to that our faith is real.

    Without hope and faith we have no reason to continue putting one foot before the other when facing adversity.

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  6. Fantastic words. I really like that poem.

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  7. DAFFY: Blogger has made some pointless and detrimental changes to the comment posting. Damn them! I agree with you: this old world of ours is in need of hope and change everywhere.

    TONY: Thanks for your visit! I agree with you about most folks do not even realize that we are pushing those damned rocks.

    MATT-MAN: We really do need as sense of hope, don’t we.

    TOP CAT: Camus speaks of courage in facing adversity, but I think that hope that we can overcome it is also necessary.

    ANGUS: Thank you, my old friend.

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  8. Lovely post. Sometimes hope is the only thing left.

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  9. How can anyone say that hope is evil...I'm really glad that pastor is not around our place, I prefer positive people.

    I think you've given a wonderful comparison in the story of Sisyphus, because that's right...if he didn't have hope, where would he, and the rest of us, be?

    In this day and age especially, one must have hope...hope for anything positive and good in our lives. That's what keeps us going...

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  10. Nick,
    I agree. Hope is essential. But there is one other aspect that gets many people through the drudgery of the day's meaningless tasks and that is happiness. Being thankful for the littlest pleasures can lead to being happy. The combination of happiness and hope, I believe, is critical to one's mental wellbeing.

    BTW, I have a little something for you. Follow the link and claim your prize. You definitely deserve it!!
    http://mondaymorningpower.blogspot.com/2007/11/winning-attitude-award.html

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  11. I really like what you say

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  12. Nick, beautiful post.
    We all need hope.
    We couldn't even be dreamers without hope!

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  13. What a powerful post, Nick. I'm fortunate to have read this.

    I feel badly for your former professor. Imagine how destitute his spirit must be because it has no hope. :-(

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  14. Without hope (regardless of spiritual perspective) there is no motivation to try to work for change. If I didn't have hope that what I work towards will make some difference, why would I keep at it? Without hope, what is the point of moving forward?

    I always loved celebrating Advent, it is the spirit of Christmas without all of the commercialization.

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  15. This is such a hopeful opening to Advent!

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  16. I can't say I don't *ever* question the vicissitude of hope at this stage of the game--as a concept or a reality--but I do ascribe meaning to its existence and power in this reality. I choose to do this because I've seen what healing, not cure but healing, it can usher in and it mitigates the side-effects of suffering inherent in being incarnate.

    Season's greetings, Santa.
    (smile)

    --

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  17. Very meaningful post and I agree - the word hopeless is a horrible word indeed. ec

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  18. Well said, Rev Saint.

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  19. Sometimes hope is all we have. And it can be enough to hope for a better tomorrow sometimes.

    As the saying so eloquently goes - better false hope than no hope at all.

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  20. How could one live life without hope? The hope that Advent inspires is what all seek, whether or not they wrap it in a "religious" package - the hope of a glorious tomorrow, full of love and joy.

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  21. This was really beautiful. It's a subject I think about often. Hope is what keeps me getting out of bed many mornings and keeps me from losing my faith in humanity. I plan to always be hopeful. Thanks for posting this.

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  22. This is a wonderful post. I am so glad that I found it.

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