Thursday, September 24, 2009

Inclusion and hope

Next time you feel like laughing at someone searching with a metal detector, remember Terry Herbert of the UK. He stumbled upon a fortune in Anglo-Saxon gold on a neighbor's farm. Over five days he unearthed what is now declared 1500 pieces of treasure with a 14 year old metal detector. Terry, who is unemployed, admits there are those who have laughed at him over the 18 years he's done this hobby. But he kept hoping to find something.

There's no doubt that Terry's situation is far different from those who seek eternal spiritual treasures, not material ones. But you have to hand it to him for persistence and optimism.

All this reminded me of Paul Tillich's The Right to Hope and his discussion of foolish versus genuine hope. Tillich's discussion about waiting in openness and the pull between despair and hope drew my attention:

There are two kinds of waiting, the passive waiting in laziness and the receiving waiting in openness. He who waits in laziness, passively, prevents the coming of what he is waiting for. He who waits in quiet tension, open for what he may encounter, works for its coming. Such waiting in openness and hope does what no will power can do for our own inner development. The more seriously the great religious men took their own transformation, using their will to achieve it, the more they failed and were thrown into hopelessness about themselves. Desperately they asked, and many of us ask with them, Can we hope at all for such inner renewal? What gives us the right to such hope after all our failures? Again there is only one answer: waiting in inner stillness, with posed tension and openness toward what we can only receive. Such openness is highest activity; it is the driving force which leads us toward the growth of something new in us. And the struggle between hope and despair in our waiting is a symptom that the new has already taken hold of us.

The inner renewal or transformation which cannot be brought about by will alone creates a spiritual tension that leads to resolution only when we realize that it is dependent on a worldview that is more mature, inclusive of everyone. Through our openness to those around us, we find what we seek.

As Tillich notes:

"We do not hope for us alone or for those who share our hope; we hope also for those who had and have no hope, for those whose hopes for this life remain unfulfilled, for those who are disappointed and indifferent, for those who despair of life, and even for those who have hurt or destroyed life. Certainly, if we could only hope each for himself, it would be a poor and foolish hope. Eternity is the ground and aim of every being, for God shall be in all."

.It is not just a distinction between earthly and spiritual treasure that matters.

Those seeking personal salvation separate from others, those who seek a relationship with God apart from all fellow human beings, will miss the mark entirely.

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