What I Dream About When I Dream About Running

Friends… I’m low on hope today.

I’m still pretty sick about Newtown. And while I’m glad for developments like Sen. Bob Casey’s change of heart on increased gun regulation, and I wish Vice President Biden the best, I have little hope that meaningful change will happen. The NRA bills itself as an organization that’s all about the rights of individual gun owners, but it is increasingly funded by and cozy with the gazillion-dollar gun industry. I don’t care how many earnest Facebook updates we write. It’s about money and it’s about clout.

I sent some money to Gabby Giffords, but still… I’m low on hope.

~

I woke up on this mid-January morning to discover that after three days of unnerving fog, we will now have three days of rain and ominously mild temperatures.

We have not had meaningful snow in three winters. Our normal average is 15 inches.

This is not the climate I moved into almost ten years ago. Yes… things have noticeably changed in less than a decade. Meanwhile, 2012 was the hottest year ever recorded.

Again, I don’t have much hope that our leaders will do anything to combat climate change… despite this:

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It just feels stacked against us, you know? We face difficult problems, and big debates need to happen. I may be wrong about stuff. I need to be called on things. But I don’t like the feeling that might equals right and that the ones with the money call the shots. Yet that’s what we’re dealing with.

Is it a marketplace of ideas? OK fine, it’s a marketplace. And some ideas are crackpot, and some are well-intentioned but based on bad data, and some are good but need some work. The problem is, there is no correlation between the validity of an idea and the amount of money behind it.

~

What do you listen to during your morning run when you’re convinced the world is screwed? You listen to Krista Tippett. Krista will make it OK.

Boy howdy:

January 10, 2013

Compassion’s Edge States: Roshi Joan Halifax on Caring Better

 It’s easy to feel overwhelmed by all the bad news and horrific pictures in the world. This is a form of empathy, Joan Halifax says, that works against us. The Zen abbot and medical anthropologist has bracing, nourishing thoughts on finding buoyancy rather than burnout in how we work, live, and care.

Touché, Holy Spirit. Touché.

I will include the pertinent bit at the end of this post, because maybe you’re feeling low on hope too.

The other part is that I had a dream last night that I was running a half marathon. But it was a ridiculous one. We were running up and down the ramps of a parking garage, again and again, for 13.1 miles. There were no water stations. It was too crowded. Some of the inclines were so steep I had to use my hands to hoist myself along.

I woke up irritated and griped to Robert about this blatant anxiety dream. But then while I was running with Krista and Joan in my ears, I realized something.

I didn’t stop running.

No wait—I did stop. I had a hissy fit because this wasn’t what I expected and it shouldn’t be this way and who’s the idiot in charge and I didn’t even SIGN UP for this stupid race!!!

But then I started running again. And I didn’t reach the end before I woke up. But I knew I was capable of keeping going. And it was enough just to know that. That’s enough hope for today.

~

~

Here’s the bit from the On Being show:

Ms. Tippett: And, you know, what I was thinking as I was reading this is it touches on something that’s happening even also to us as citizens to a different degree. It’s come up here at Chautauqua this week. Compassionate people are overwhelmed now with the deluge of terrible news. The pictures are too present and too vivid, you know, the news cycle is too relentless. I see pictures of children in faraway places that wreck me for a day, right? So the question that’s in this room and I think is out there in the world and in this country right now is how do we find the courage? How do we heal enough? How do we be present to that and not be overwhelmed by it?

Ms. Halifax: Well, I think this is one of the reasons why I identified these edge states because, when you realize — and the issue that you were bringing up, for example, about violence toward children, whether subtle or direct, and also that we are subjected to these images through our media, bombarded, is, I think, a more accurate statement. So we enter into what we would call a state of moral distress and futility. And the moral distress is something that where we see that something else needs to happen.

Children need to be protected, we have to stop rape and violence toward women in the Congo, and we feel this profound moral conflict. And yet we can’t do anything about it and we enter into a state either of moral outrage or we go into states of avoidance through addictive behaviors where we just, you know, don’t want to deal with it or we just go into another state of withdrawal, a kind of numbness, or …

Ms. Tippett: Tune out, right?

Ms. Halifax: Into freeze. And I think a lot of this world that is hooked up in the media right now, that a good part of the globe is going numb. And I don’t really agree, Krista, with the term “compassion fatigue.” I think what we’re seeing actually is not compassion fatigue, but empathic distress where there’s a resonance, but we’re not able to stabilize ourselves when we’re exposed to this kind of suffering. When we are more stabilized then we can face the world with more buoyancy, we have more resilience. You know, we’ve got more capacity to actually address these very profound social and environmental issues. So that’s why I call these things edge states because they really call us to our edge.

Ms. Tippett: I remember talking once to Ingrid Jordt who’s been a student and a practitioner in the Burmese Buddhist tradition. She talked about a teacher of hers who had also been a teacher to Aung San Suu Kyi who talked about how the great virtues have near enemies. Do you know this teaching?

Ms. Halifax: Oh, yeah.

Ms. Tippett: And that a near enemy to compassion is sorrow and that’s that sorrow, that’s me getting wrecked by the picture of the child in the newspaper so that I can’t actually help them.

A Holy ‘No’

The Annunciation by Henry Ossawa Tanner 1896

I’ll share if you will:

MaryAnn McKibben Dana
Idylwood Presbyterian Church
December 16, 2012
Luke 1:39-45, (46-55)

In those days Mary set out and went with haste to a Judean town in the hill country,
where she entered the house of Zechariah and greeted Elizabeth.
When Elizabeth heard Mary’s greeting, the child leaped in her womb. And Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit and exclaimed with a loud cry, “Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb. And why has this happened to me, that the mother of my Lord comes to me? For as soon as I heard the sound of your greeting, the child in my womb leaped for joy. And blessed is she who believed that there would be a fulfillment of what was spoken to her by the Lord.” 

And Mary said, “My soul magnifies the Lord, and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior, for he has looked with favor on the lowliness of his servant. Surely, from now on all generations will call me blessed; for the Mighty One has done great things for me, and holy is his name. His mercy is for those who fear him from generation to generation. He has shown strength with his arm; he has scattered the proud in the thoughts of their hearts. He has brought down the powerful from their thrones, and lifted up the lowly; he has filled the hungry with good things, and sent the rich away empty. He has helped his servant Israel, in remembrance of his mercy, according to the promise he made to our ancestors, to Abraham and to his descendants forever.”

Some years ago I taught a class during Advent on the mother of Jesus, called “There’s Something about Mary.” (I may need to reprise that sometime here at IPC!) During the class we looked at how Mary has been portrayed in art and in music:

“Gentle Mary meekly bowed her head,” according to one hymn.
“Gentle Mary” laid her child in a manger, says another.
“In the Bleak Midwinter” speaks of the “maiden’s bliss.”
“Mary was that mother mild,” we sing in “Once in Royal David’s City.”

Ah, gentle Mary—mild, meek, the handmaiden of the Lord, head bowed in reverence. Can’t you see her there on so many paintings, stained glass windows, icons and Christmas cards?

There’s certainly scriptural support for this view of a demure mother of Jesus. When Mary asks, “How will it be that this child will come to me?” the angel answers, “the power of the Most High will overshadow you.” It’s that word, overshadow. Gentle Mary, meek and mild, will be diminished even further by God’s power, who will overshadow her.

But then… there’s this song.

It’s an improvisation of the song Hannah sings in the Old Testament after the birth of her son Samuel. But it is not a sweet lullaby. It is a battle cry, bold and defiant.

God has shown strength with his arm; he has scattered the proud in the thoughts of their hearts. He has brought down the powerful from their thrones, and lifted up the lowly; he has filled the hungry with good things, and sent the rich away empty.

Does that sound meek and mild to you?

*          *          *

My friend and colleague Michael Kirby tells me that several years ago, someone began stealing the baby Jesuses from outdoor manger scenes in his Chicago neighborhood. It turned out to be a prank, and the figurines were later found in a woman’s yard, 32 of them, sorted by size and type. Unfortunately, many people coming to claim their figures tried to walk away with a “nicer” Jesus than the one they’d had. “They were trading up,” he said. “Everybody wanted the freshly painted, unfaded baby.”

Mary would not approve of such cheap attempts at an upgrade.

“[God] has lifted up the lowly,” she sings. God has looked with favor upon the dingy, the faded, the forlorn and discarded figures of this world.

…Because Mary’s song, at the heart of it, is a song of defiance, in the tradition of the old African-American spirituals and of protest songs. It is “We Shall Overcome”; it is “Where Have All the Flowers Gone.” It is a dissent against the way things are. It is a counter-testimony to the dysfunction that passes for normal in our world.

Mary sings this song, because her pregnancy itself is God’s act of dissent against worldly power. God did not choose a queen, a wealthy noblewoman to bear the Messiah. God chose an unmarried peasant girl. God assessed the demands of the world and expectations of a king that would come in strength and might and prestige and said, “No, I’d just as soon not.” And in her song Mary echoes this divine No:

No to the proud and their haughty ways.

No to hunger that goes unfed.

No to suffering unrelieved.

No, no, no.

We’ve had a lot of occasions to say no this past week. I shared last Sunday about a friend whose son took his life at the age of 14. The moderator of our denomination, Cindy Bolbach, died on Wednesday after a cruel and relentless cancer. And of course, there is Sandy Hook Elementary School. To each of these, especially the last, and to countless other injustices, atrocities and heartbreaks we say No. No. No. And we do not say it meek and mild. We say it with clenched fist. We say it in protest. We say it loud and with a catch in our voice.

No, by the way, to the idea that God let this madness happen because we no longer pray in school. Like clockwork, the political and religious pundits have suggested exactly that. Imagine what kind of a God that is. A narcissistic thug who would allow such carnage because we don’t pray in the time and place and manner that God specifies. No.

And if I were ever to find out that that’s the kind of being God is, I think I’d have to renounce my ordination and go sell insurance, because that God and I would be finished.

*          *          *

So say No we must. But it’s not enough to say No. Lament is not enough. Heartbreak is not enough. Mary didn’t stop with a song. She embodied her song in her devotion to God; she lived that song as a witness to the God who is surprising and surpassingly good. And so must we. Mary sings, “My soul magnifies the Lord,” and it did. And so our lives must magnify, enlarge, make clear, the goodness of our God.

Right now, it’s hard to see anything but the horror of what happened in Newtown, Connecticut. But slowly, slowly, the stories are coming out of ordinary heroism and great sacrifice. Stories of average people whose lives were magnifiers of love and peace. The teacher who lost her life shielding her students from harm. Or the teacher who piled her class into a restroom and told them to be very quiet… but who also took the time to say how much she loved each of them—so that if this was the end, at least they would hear words of love. Thankfully, they all survived.

There will be more stories like this, coming out of Newtown.

And there must be more stories like this, from Newtown and from Falls Church and from everywhere that good people curse the darkness and long for the light. Our laments are insufficient without action, what my friend Roy this week called “embodied prayer.” There is too much violence, too many guns making their way into the wrong hands. There are too many disturbed people slipping through the cracks rather than receiving the mental health care they need. Time and perspective will guide us into a faithful response. But respond we must.

*          *          *

If my Facebook feed is any indication, there were a lot of preachers who burned the midnight oil last night. What does one say? What can one say? The difficulty is compounded by the fact that this is “Joy” Sunday, a word that seems to taunt us, especially if we let ourselves imagine 26 families, and many more, who will never be the same again. And yet, as a friend reminded me last night, joy is not the same as happiness. There is always a touch of heartbreak in joy, because joy is hard-earned.  C.S. Lewis, who “Joy is distinct… from pleasure. It must have the stab, the pang, the inconsolable longing.”

It’s that longing in the midst of joy that we hear from Mary’s lips. Mary sings for the weak and the lowly, the poor and the hungry. And there is a stubbornness to Mary. She’s no fool, after all. She must look around and see rich getting richer and poor getting poorer. Surely she must see the powerful comfortably on their thrones and the lowly begging for food. She is singing of a world that does not yet exist, but still could.

And Mary invites that same holy stubbornness to erupt from our own hearts and lives.

We must refuse to be defeated.

We must refuse to let the darkness win.

We must refuse to let Friday’s atrocities be the lasting legacy of our age.

Yesterday at Cindy Bolbach’s memorial service, we closed with a hymn. Not the Magnificat, but a similar protest song, a song of Martin Luther. We sang it defiantly, we sang it stubbornly, we sang it vigorously, we sang it in honor of our friend who loved it so, and we sang it for the children of Newtown, Connecticut.

The Prince of Darkness grim, we tremble not for him;
his rage we can endure, for lo, his doom is sure; one little word shall fell him.
That word above all earthly powers, no thanks to them, abideth;
the Spirit and the gifts are ours, thru him who with us sideth.
Let goods and kindred go, this mortal life also;
the body they may kill; God’s truth abideth still; his kingdom is forever.

Image: Tanner’s Annunciation

When the World is Falling Apart… A Parable for Today

I’ve told the story many times, but I was in seminary when 9/11 happened. Classes continued that day, amid the shock and hurt; convocation had been scheduled for September 12 and went on as planned, though not as usual.

Some in the community criticized the administration for not cancelling regular activities. Walter Brueggemann wrote in response, “When the world is falling apart, plant a tree. We were planting trees.”

A member of the church recently sent this story to me. It seems fitting for today:

There was a woman who wanted peace in the world and peace in her heart and all sorts of good things, but she was very frustrated. The world seemed to be falling apart. She would read the newspapers and get depressed.

One day she decided to go shopping, and she went into a mall and picked a store at random. She walked in and was surprised to see Jesus behind the counter. She knew it was Jesus because he looked just like the pictures she’d seen on holy cards and devotional pictures.

She looked again and again at him, and finally she got up enough nerve and asked, ‘Excuse me, are you Jesus?’

‘I am.’

‘Do you work here?’

‘No,’ Jesus said, ‘I own the store.’

‘Oh, what do you sell in here?’

‘Oh, just about anything!’

‘Anything?’

‘Yeah, anything you want. What do you want?’

She said, ‘I don’t know.’ Well,’ Jesus said, ‘feel free, walk up and down the aisles, make a list, see what it is that you want, and then come back and we’ll see what we can do for you.’

She did just that, walked up and down the aisles. There was peace on earth, no more war, no hunger or poverty, peace in families, no more drugs, harmony, clean air, careful use of resources. She wrote furiously.

By the time she got back to the counter, she had a long list. Jesus took the list, skimmed through it, looked up and smiled, ‘No problem.’ And then he bent down behind the counter and picked out all sorts of things, stood up, and laid out the packets.

She asked, ‘What are these?’ Jesus replied, ‘Seed packets. This is a catalog store.’

She said, ‘You mean I don’t get the finished product?’

‘No, this is a place of dreams. You come and see what it looks like, and I give you the seeds. You plant the seeds. You go home and nurture them and help them to grow and someone else reaps the benefits.’

‘Oh,’ she said.

And she left the store without buying anything.

from Parables: The Arrows of God by Megan McKenna

Word to the Impatient

This meme has overstayed itself by about three weeks, but I couldn't resist. Inexplicably, this came up when I googled the phrase from Romans, "hope does not disappoint us."

There were many nuggets, stories and quotable quotes from last week’s Festival of Faith and Writing, and I’m sure some of them will make it into sermons and future writings. Here’s one.

The last presentation I attended was by Paula Huston, who presented on the topic “Writing as a Spiritual Practice”—incidentally, she did so with laryngitis. There was something fitting about preparing to leave the conference, about shifting my energies from festival to home… just as the words were diminishing into a whisper.

Huston spoke about waiting many years (thirteen?) for her novel to be published, and talked about struggling with impatience. I listened, but with a detached and clinical interest since impatience isn’t  something I ever have to deal with.

~cough~

She finally decided to get some spiritual counsel and talked to one of the monks at a monastery she often visited for retreats. She asked, “How can I have more patience?” He replied, “Your problem isn’t a lack of patience. Your problem is a lack of hope.”

There was a palpable “aha!” that reverberated in the room when she said that. She elaborated: if you trust the process, and you trust yourself, and you trust that all things are working together for wholeness and good and abundant life, then patience and peace are the truest response.

I think I love this, even though I want to test the limits of her view against the kind of impatience that presses for change. We’re seeing that with the Columbia Seminary situation. Truth be told, I think the policy will change soon so that committed same-sex couples will have access to campus housing. Not soon enough, I know, for current students who are paying more for housing because they can’t live on campus, and not soon enough for people who’ve been waiting for justice for years. Agitating for change seems like a holy impatience to me, a faithful discontent with the way things are.

Even so, I wonder whether it’s possible to cultivate a patient impatience.

I’ve been tired and full since the Festival. Last night I wanted nothing more than to get the kids to bed and settle into my own with a book or two. But the kids were slow and needy, and every room I went into had yet another thing that needed to be done before I could read and rest. I know about resting when it’s time to rest and not when the tasks are all done—I wrote a book about it—but this was stuff that couldn’t wait. Like, giving the cat her medicine so she doesn’t seize.

I was testy and impatient over all of these things. So I began to mull Huston’s statement. What’s going on when I am impatient? What’s happening internally when I just can’t wait to get to the next thing?

Maybe I am acting, in the words of Paul, as one without hope. Maybe I need to cultivate hope. But not hope that everything’s going to be OK. I’m a fan of Vaclav Havel’s understanding of hope, which is not the assurance that things will work out, but a conviction that things make sense, regardless of how they turn out.

My life—cat medicine and all—makes sense. There is a strange coherence to it. And there is no next thing. There is only the current thing, whether it’s brushing James’s teeth or writing a blog post or reading My Life in France. This I believe.

A New Heart: A Sermon

A heart of stone... the cover of our bulletin on Sunday.

Here’s what I preached on Sunday. It is inadequate for the occasion, but it is something.

MaryAnn McKibben Dana
Idylwood Presbyterian Church
March 25, 2012
Fifth Sunday of Lent

Jeremiah 31:31-34: The days are surely coming, says the LORD, when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and the house of Judah. It will not be like the covenant that I made with their ancestors when I took them by the hand to bring them out of the land of Egypt–a covenant that they broke, though I was their husband, says the LORD. But this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, says the LORD: I will put my law within them, and I will write it on their hearts; and I will be their God, and they shall be my people. No longer shall they teach one another, or say to each other, “Know the LORD,” for they shall all know me, from the least of them to the greatest, says the LORD; for I will forgive their iniquity, and remember their sin no more.

My girls came bounding off the bus Tuesday afternoon, full of news. A sixth grade boy had been walking to school and had been stopped by a man driving a white van. The man had tried to get the boy to get into the van. The boy had refused, and run all the way to school. Police were called; procedures put into motion. “We’re going to have a lockdown drill on Thursday!” the girls clapped. They were concerned for the boy and a little wary, but mainly they were excited about a break in the monotony of the school day.

I was so grateful for their innocence — that they say something so potentially serious as a festive occasion and not one for fear.

But the other side of me, the side of me who’s seen too much, who had that innocence taken away long ago simply by living in the world for four decades, sucked in her breath.

My oh my, we live in a fallen creation.

We live in what our Presbyterian Statement of Faith calls a “broken and fearful world.”

One of my disciplines this Lent—in addition to fasting from dessert, fourteen more days but who’s counting—is to look around me to try to find just one scene of beauty: each day, to find one thing that takes my breath away that I might have missed if I hadn’t been looking, really looking for it.

I need that discipline right now. I need to look at the world in that way. I need to be a detective for beauty, a sleuth for grace. Because right now the world is a dead black boy in Florida and mean Internet comments and a law student from Georgetown who was called a prostitute for having an opinion. The world is protesters slaughtered in Syria and dead Jewish children in Paris and a soldier gone mad in Afghanistan.

I think Jeremiah would understand the need for some beauty. Jeremiah’s prophetic words were uttered in a time of crisis: Jerusalem has been destroyed by a foreign power; the people of Israel have been deported. Most of the book contains a harsh judgment on the leadership, who have not been faithful to God by maintaining justice and obedience. Exile is seen as a punishment for this failure.

The world is a mess, says Jeremiah.
But let me be more specific: we have made it so.

And then comes chapters 30 and 31, right in the middle of the book, two luminous chapters called the Book of Comfort. That’s where we are today, nestled in that comfort, and it comes just in the nick of time.

The days are surely coming… I will make a new covenant.
I will put my law within them, and I will write it on their hearts; and I will be their God, and they shall be my people.
I will forgive their iniquity, and remember their sin no more.

Just one chapter later, we are told that Jeremiah responds to these words, personally and powerfully, by buying a field at Anathoth. This field, it should be said, was occupied by a foreign power; it had fallen to the Babylonians. And yet Jeremiah stakes his claim on that land. The time will come when this land will be God’s again, and I will plant and build here, he says, and in so doing, he claims that covenant hope that God expresses in today’s passage. Jeremiah’s purchase of the land is more than a prophetic move; it is an act of daring, reckless hope.

~

Friday I took a trip downtown to see the cherry blossoms at their peak. As I walked around the Tidal Basin, I happened upon the Martin Luther King memorial. Amid the beauty of cherry blossoms floating down from the trees like pink snowflakes, and branches dipping into the water, the King memorial offered a different kind of beauty, a stark, stony beauty.

King of course was a prophet, as surely as Jeremiah was a prophet. He described the world that is not yet ours, but could be. Should be. Will be. And as I read the various quotes etched in stone on the inscription wall, I couldn’t help but see the sweet face of Trayvon Martin.

“If we are to have peace on earth, our loyalties must become ecumenical rather than sectional. Our loyalties must transcend our race, our tribe, our class…”

“Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere. We are caught in an inescapable network of mutuality, tied in a single garment of destiny. Whatever affects one directly, affects all indirectly.”

The fate of Trayvon Martin affects us. Whatever investigation takes place—and an investigation is sorely needed—whatever truth comes out, whatever happens next—his death diminishes us.

We will never know what a grown-up Trayvon Martin might have contributed to his family and his community and the world. He was an A and B student who according to his teachers “majored in cheerfulness,” who had no criminal record and was studying to be an aviation engineer. He wanted to fly.

He is gone. And it falls to us then, the living, to say a reckless YES to the covenant God describes and promises, here in the Book of Comfort. Even if the world God describes seems so far from our own, we are called to step out in faith. The new covenant God promises Jeremiah hasn’t happened yet. The restoration has yet to occur, and God is speaking in the future tense. Here is what I will do, God says.

The when is not clear. But God’s intention certainly is.

There have been many versions of the covenant before this in scripture: covenants to Noah and Abraham, and covenants handed down to Moses in the Ten Commandments. But here there is a shift. The covenant will not be spoken to patriarchs, nor will it etched on stone tablets. It will be written on human hearts. Our hearts. Hearts that don’t just weep at the death of an unarmed black boy, but who work for a world where such a tragedy is a thing of the past.

In a moment, we will hear from John Dearie, a board member of the Virginia Coalition to End Homelessness.

That sounds impossible. End homelessness? It seems laughable in its audacity. Surely the problem is too big, the problem is too complicated, the problem is too expensive. If there were a way to end homelessness, we’d have done it by now.

But I invite you to listen with the ear of Jeremiah:

Jeremiah, who in the midst of the exile of his people said, “God is not finished with us yet.”

Jeremiah who saw the despair and the destruction all around him and dared to announce that there is still hope.

Jeremiah, who wrote 50 chapters of prophetic judgment but had the good sense to include 2 chapters of comfort. But the comfort doesn’t say everything’s going to be OK, that God’s going to swoop in and fix everything. The comfort comes in the form of a new heart beating in our chests, a heart that beats for justice and hope and abundant life for everyone. Everyone.

“I will put my law within them, and I will write it on their hearts; and I will be their God, and they shall be my people.”

Hope Via Podcast

Slug Line.

In the spirit of “what’s not wrong,” I listened to two things while commuting/running today that lifted by spirit and gave me little shimmers of hope in a world that, quite frankly, feels like it’s going to the dogs right now.

First, the Freakonomics podcast asks, “Should there be a hitchhiking renaissance?” Did you know that  the average vehicle commuting to and from work has only 1.1 people it? This means that about 80 percent of car capacity goes unused.

The podcast is an interesting exploration of why people don’t hitchhike anymore. I was excited that they profiled the Slug Line, which is one of my favorite quirks of the DC area.

Part of the decrease in hitchhiking is the fear factor, which the show’s hosts argue is overblown—the examples of hitchhiking gone awry, though quite dramatic, are extremely rare.

What are you scared of, and why? Are your fears rational? Or do you let the small likelihood of a terrible outcome stop you from doing things you want to do? You know what I think we fear most in this country? Strangers. We’ve done a great job – through our media, our movies, our politics – of convincing ourselves that strangers are dangerous. But if you look at the data, you might be surprised.

This is testimony!

What really struck me was something said at the end of the show: that hitchhiking (or sharing rides, if you prefer) is a way of embodying trust in one another. And the more we trust each other, the more trustworthy we become and the more pleasant our society is as a whole.

We have a better society when we can trust one another. And wherever and whenever there’s an evaporation of systems based on trust I think there’s a loss to society. I also think that one evaporation of trust in society tends to feed another, and that we would have a better society if we could, rather than promoting fear and working to reduce the places where terrible things happen, if we could promote trust and work on building societies in which people are more trustworthy. I think we’re all better off in a million different ways if and when we can do that.

I don’t know… I hear that and think there’s some glimpse of the kingdom of heaven there.

The second bit was the prologue to the latest This American Life. Did you know that there is a gathering called the 100 Year Starship Symposium? The people there are serious folks who are trying to solve the problem of interstellar space travel. They realize that we’re centuries away, yet they’re talking about the real scientific and engineering challenges. (They already have a solution to the space dust problem, by the way.)

Their hope is that people will look back hundreds or a thousand years from now and see that exploration of this new frontier had its roots in gatherings like the symposium.

I find that lovely.

What can I say… I take my hope where I can get it.

(I’m pretty heads-down on the book the next several weeks, so won’t be writing as much on the blog. Will likely share little tidbits like this from time to time.)