We hear much doom and gloom these days about real crises, about violence and distrust and polarization…. I suspect that most of us experience this G&D. It’s is a real and important experience pervasive in the cultural air we breathe daily. We must pay serious attention to it. Yet I write mainly to suggest that such G&D risks looming too large in our minds and spirits. I write to note that many good things, big and small, are also very real, and to urge that appreciation and admiration of such real goods needs to occupy a greater part of our attention.
That’s it. If the topic interests you, please read on, or just delete and think about hope and gloom in your own way.
I have used “zoom” in my title because much of what follows reflects on how zooming has become part of our way of living since the pandemic. And I suspect there are many zoom groups which exemplify such attention to the good. My own experience of many zoom sessions really helps to counterbalance my experiences of gloom by enlarging my sense of reality.
So, doom yes, but hope as well — whether via zooms or other forms of communication and community. My mentor Lynch says that hope is impossible without help.
I suspect there are hundreds of thousands of zoom groups operating in this country which primarily spread gloom and doom. Same with twitter accounts, with gossip groups, and even church services (!) spreading fear and despair.
But I hope there are at least as many hundreds of thousands of zoom groups (and other media, including most church services) which spread hope and prudence and wisdom….
My numbers may be way off, but hope you get the point.
Not much for me to say here since I assume that we all have such experiences and hear such prognostications.
I’m something of a cinema addict, these days mostly via the likes of Netflix. Thus one example of G&D is the great popularity of apocalyptic cinema – about the great alien invasion or the total desertification of the earth or the whole genre of great heroes saving us from unbelievable monsters. At times it seems that most of our cinema and literature, even much great poetry (think T. S. Eliot), is accurately characterized by what Lynch calls “The Wasteland Sensibility.” I rarely watch more than a few minutes of such films since they are boringly repetitive and predictable. Yet their popularity is cause for reflection. I suspect that people watch apocalyptic fantasies because they confirm our deeper fears. Yet they simultaneously assuage them – because, after all, it’s just fantasy and the good guys always win.
Much more could be said about the spread of doom and gloom among us. Perhaps it’s always been part of our evolutionary human sense of weakness and wariness. Only the fool has no fear. Perhaps it’s something elevated again because of our industrial waste and genocidal wars and climate crises.
About Zooming and Other Sources of Hope
Martin Buber famously said that “all real living is meeting.” I have friends who believe that’s only really possible face to face. While I understand, I nonetheless disagree. Zoom groups have enabled me to meet with good friends during a time of lockdown and over great distances (with people in New York and Florida, Arizona and California, Germany and Switzerland). I’ll happily continue to zoom even as I am happily returning to local, face-to-face meeting.
At the risk of being too personal, let me comment briefly on some of the zoom groups that have helped me deepen meaning and hope during this pandemic period.
Many are with elders like myself – mostly men. Many are with guys I was with during my early years in the Marianists (a Catholic religious order). There’s also what I fondly think of as “The Regis Old Farts Group” – retired guys I worked with during my thirty years at Regis University.
We do talk about the G&D. Indeed the next scheduled session of one of the ex-Marianist groups will focus on the climate crisis – how it’s affecting us spiritually, what we might do in response…. Yet for me at least, in this group and others, I always leave the conversation with a shared sense of hope. Not the kind of fantasy hope which is fundamentally an escape from the hard facts. But hope engendered by thoughtful exchange among friends.
Another “Common Bond” zoom group – that’s what we former Marianists call ourselves, bonded still by deeply shared experiences from the past. Another CB zoom has for more than a year now been focused on the theological idea (following Teilhard de Chardin and others) of “the Cosmic Christ,” the idea that Christ is really present in the unfolding of the cosmos. We’ve approached this idea from many angles, from the most abstract (Teilhard) to the very concrete (how Christ might be prophetically present in our neighborhoods and work amidst many evils. How Christ seeks to work through us for building a world of justice and peace? There is no avoidance of real crises in this discussion. No more than Jesus during his time with us avoided the pervasive crises of his time. Yet the overall achievement of the sessions is hope.
Then there are zooms with other groups – some faculty and administrators at Regis, and an international group of politically-involved folks. And again, for me and (I think) the others involved, these groups deliberately take on the hard facts of our lives and our world, but in search of realistic hope and, in process of discussion, experiencing a renewal of hope.
There’s no magic here. Just friends “daring to dream” together — to borrow from Pope Francis’ recent book Let Us Dream: The Path to a Better Future.