Hope from despair

Posted by:

G Sakamoto

I think I spend too much time reading the news. The Merc, CNN, ABC, NBC, Reuters. KQED, NPR, Huffington, BBC, CNET. I tend to read liberal. Sometimes I’ll read a long article from Washington Post or The Atlantic or New York Times. Its only occasionally because I’m too cheap to subscribe, although I do stay with ads until they finish. Unfortunately, I’m the news consumer who’s going to ruin real news reporters.

With news from the web, I select what I read and what I’ll spend time on. Headlines are generally the same: Presidential race, Aleppo, Duterte, Russia, Kim Jong Un, whatever happened in Ukraine or persecution by Buddhists of Muslims in Myanmar. There is always a never ending stream of major events that flow into the news. It seems that at any moment we will plunge off the cliffs of sanity into a maelstrom of cascading catastrophes.

Watching the world through this window is disheartening. There has never been a time is history when events race instantly across the world as they do today influencing events elsewhere. Social media broadcast in real time and records events everywhere. How can we even know if what we’re seeing represents what is happening. Yet the images are there. If we question everything what is left to trust. There seems to be no place to go to trust and find sanctuary.

Where is the hope of a better day?

Shinran writes in the Shoshinge:

“The light of compassion that grasps us illumines and protects us always;
The darkness of our ignorance is already broken through;
Still the clouds and mists of greed and desire, anger and hatred,
Cover as always the sky of true and real shinjin.

But though the light of the sun is veiled by clouds and mists,
Beneath the clouds and mists there is brightness, not dark.
When one realizes shinjin, seeing and revering and attaining great joy,
One immediately leaps crosswise, closing off the five evil courses.”

We are after all unenlightened beings. Our actions will often result in difficulties for ourselves and others. In Jodo Shinshu we understand this. We understand the limitations of our abilities to resolve the difficulties we cause and experience. But we also know that the promise of Amida assures us of the eventual resolution of difficulties. There is no magic. No transmografication. Just the realization that we are here. And even as we struggle to make sense of it all, we know we are foolish beings assured, as we are, that things will work out.
Despair is not something new. It is not limited to any culture or group of people. It can fill our hearts and feel overwhelming at times. But there is always hope. We need to simply look around, listen, open our hearts to the humanity we are all a part of. Sometimes hope is found in complex ideas. Sometimes in the simplest of things. The wild flower growing beneath the hedge. Or a star filled sky on a cold winter night. There is a song written by Mike Mattison and Derek Trucks called “Midnight in Harlem”. I hope you’ll take a look a Tedeschi and Trucks performance here: https://goo.gl/meIAY8

“Midnight in Harlem”
Tedeschi Trucks Band
Eric Clapton Crossroads Guitar Festival 2010

The lyrics can be found here: https://goo.gl/8mpXB8
Here’s a part of the lyrics.

“I went down to the river
And I took a look around
There were old man’s shoes
There were needles on the ground
No more mysteries, baby
No more secrets, no more clues
The stars are out there
You can almost see the moon
The streets are windy
And the subway’s closing down
Gonna carry this dream
To the other side of town.

Walk that line, torn apart
Gotta spend your whole life trying
Ride that train, free your heart
It’s midnight up in Harlem”

Mike Mattison
Derek Trucks

The hope for better times is universal. It is something we share with all humanity. How we fulfill that hope may differ. If, however, we can recognize and acknowledge this shared experience perhaps we can bridge our differences, soften the boundaries that separate and work together for a common good.