Gratitude, Joy, Oneness and Service (Day 888 – Day 903)
When I was a child, we spent some of our summer holidays in British Columbia visiting my grandparents, aunties, uncles and cousins. Every year, my mother took us to see the Japanese Internment camps as a reminder that we must never take our liberties for granted, and every year, we stopped at the site of the Hope Slide.
The Hope landslide occurred in the early hours of one January morning in 1965. Two carloads of travellers on the Hope-Princeton Highway witnessed a minor slide ahead of them and stopped short of it and waited. Why they were waiting remains a mystery.
Other travellers, just moments ahead of them, made it through the pass, outside of Chilliwack, unscathed and unaware that there had been a minor slide. A greyhound bus, fully loaded with passengers, came behind the two cars and turned around at the sight of the blocked highway.
But those two cars, in Hope, waited.
Moments later, the entire mountain came down upon them. Only two bodies were ever found. The rest remain entombed under 47 million cubic metres of rock that remains as a monument – the Hope Slide.
As an adult, I wonder about the significance of making this pilgrimage every year. My mother was one of the kindest people I have ever known, and although a person of quiet and unwavering faith, she was not sentimental. So why this annual pilgrimage to Hope?
In the darkest of times, we are told to have hope.
The Oxford Dictionary defines hope as:
A feeling of expectation and desire for a particular thing to happen.
I am a person of faith and my faith has been tested and fortified in difficult times. But hope, it seems to me, has little to do with faith. It is, in some ways, the antithesis of faith. Faith asks us to watch for the signs we are given and act accordingly, even when it is gut wrenching to do so. Hope abdicates personal responsibility and seems to ask only that we desire something and expect that it will happen. It is a kind of magical thinking we ought to leave behind, in childhood.
In the darkest of times, we are not called to light a candle and sit in the dark, with hope. We are called to have faith in the Divine and in that complete and complex confidence, to ACT, and to BE the light for those who have lost their own. Our hope can slide, as it has for many of us in these dark times.
Today, amidst the sombre mood of the world, the death of probably the greatest of my writing heroes – Leonard Cohen – was made public. I am deeply saddened by his death. His was a carnal dance with the darkness and yet his spiritual light was never extinguished. He taught me about the poetic and bittersweet death of the ego long before the yogis ever did. And he taught me the profound poignancy of language. For him, and for his prophetic words, I will always be grateful.
I am grateful that I came through the dark days after Brexit in the UK and am able to offer support to my American friends who feel unsafe in their own country because they are gay, or a person of colour or an immigrant – classes of people that have come under attack in a vicious presidential race. I don’t tell them not to lose hope, because the minor landslide has occurred and I think it would be reasonable to expect the whole mountain to come down. I do, however, encourage them not to lose faith, to act, and to BE the light, in all of this darkness.
I am grateful for my faith. I don’t believe in some man with a beard, but I do believe in Oneness and in the web of light that is being held by spiritual practitioners who continue, daily, to make the choice to act on faith.
Joy may seem hard to find these days, but not if we reflect. This morning, I awoke to a blue sky. Even if only for a moment, my heart was lifted. And that temporary respite from all the doom and gloom gave me rest, so that I could be there for others.
My service in the past few weeks has been to allow myself to be both vulnerable with another and strong when required. I have been no less than a most intimate friend.
There is nothing better we can be, right now, to one another.
In memory of Leonard Cohen, I share a video of his song of undying love, inspired by the string quartets of the Nazi death camps. In all the darkness, when there is no hope, we can still act to BE the light.
For what are you most grateful this week?