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Hope Takes a Break

Spiritual Smart Aleck

This has been a rough week in America. It started last Sunday night with a man using semi-automatic weapons to mow down over five hundred people at a country music festival in Las Vegas. Fifty-eight people died. Fifty-nine, counting the shooter, who took himself out before he could be caught.

It is difficult to recover from a shock like that, even if you weren’t in the crowd, or related to or acquainted with any of the people who were there or who were shot.

There is no reason to it. The guy snapped a long time ago, and stayed snapped while he meticulously planned and prepared to do what he did.

How do we live through such an event, which makes no sense, and hurts so many?

I’ve been doing it by paying attention to the ordinary.

My morning routine is almost always the same: Get up, make coffee, have breakfast. Say prayers, write in my journal.
 If it’s a pool day, I go there.

Yesterday was a pleasant day, not too hot, so I took the dog along.

As I drove I noted that Mt. Rainier was wearing a slender lenticular cloud at a jaunty angle on its northeastern slope.
Because it was sunny, I parked in the shade at the Athletic Club so Marley wouldn’t get hot in the car. I opened the windows as wide as I dared, so she wouldn’t be tempted to jump out. I opened the sunroof as well. I put a sunshield up in front of my windshield to block any sun that hit the car. I put a bowl of water on the back seat in case she needed a drink, told her she was a good dog, and went to my class, confident my precautions would keep her cool.

When I came back from my water walking class a little over an hour later, Marley was lying in the back seat shivering. Poor puppy. I took too many precautions. Summer really is over.

I draped my jacket over her to warm her up, and took her up to Sunrise Ridge so the two of us could walk around. I could see Mt. Rainier from up there. By that time the lenticular cloud had circled the entire peak.
I picked up dog poop. That is one of the most ordinary things a person can do. By the way, whoever is putting poop bags in the poop bag holder at Sunrise Ridge, THANK YOU. YOU ROCK.

The dog browsed and cavorted around to her heart’s content, and then asked to get back in the car, and we came home, her to have some treats and nap a little and bark at noises which only she hears; me to have lunch and work on writing this essay.

That was my ordinary morning.

I did not spend it obsessively thinking about the Las Vegas shooter and his victims; or the destruction of entire islands and cities by hurricanes; or our so-called president who seems incapable of making sense. I sometimes watch him to see what cognitively dissonant thing he’s up to now, but not often, because it hurts. I know in general what to expect but am amazed at his capacity for creating heretofore undreamed-of witlessness.

This afternoon I went to the library to get some books, and while I was there I read a newspaper article about the Las Vegas shooting. Still no motive, say the investigators, “But we’ll find it.”

The story has moved from the front page to page 3. No one ever went broke underestimating the American attention span.

It is easy to lose hope for a better world in times like these. It is easy to feel like faith is letting you down. I look for things to connect me with reality: the unexpected red rose blooming this late in the year; the lenticular cloud on the mountain; the way my dog communicates with me with her puppy eyes, or the nudge of a nose, or the touch of a paw.
How many human beings down through the millennia have been in situations that felt hopeless?

Think how the Apostles felt the night Jesus was crucified. They must have felt well and truly lost.

We are living in a Good Friday time. We don’t know yet when or what Easter is coming, but we live in the faith of Christ resurrected, and we keep putting one foot in front of the other.

For those of you offended or put off by Christian metaphors: things suck right now, but even if you do nothing but wait, things will change, maybe worse, maybe better. We don’t know. But it is worthwhile sticking around and working for better.