Where We Are. Or Aren’t.

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So Gerald Locklin has to write this “where we are” poem and bug me with it. Here’s how it goes:

i envy those
who live in two places:
new york, say, and london;
wales and spain;
l.a. and paris;
hawaii and switzerland.

there is always the anticipation
of the change, the chance that what is wrong
is the result of where you are. i have
always loved both the freshness of
arriving and the relief of leaving. with
two homes every move would be a homecoming.
i am not even considering the weather, hot
or cold, dry or wet: i am talking about hope.

Now don’t get hung up on the two homes bit. I mean everybody needs one home before any of us deserve two, but as the penetrating last line intimates, this is not the point. Locklin’s topic is hope.

Or is it?

I really don’t know.

I’m infected with the matter under discussion. It permeates Christianity, what with the “this world is not my home” sort of thinking. It sells in American capitalism, too: we are always looking for something else. There are some great words for this, hope notwithstanding. Words like quest and journey and anticipation and Chicago Cubs.

But there’s the negative end of it, too. Oddly enough, in Christianity the same Bible author dude who talks about “pressing on to take hold” writes about learning the secret of being content in all situations. Yes, words like contentment and fulfillment and presence, and for lovers of all things French, c’est la vie, seem to fly in the face of Locklin’s anticipation.

So which is it? Or, better, where is the balance between the two?

I suspect someone might be tempted to offer the Serenity Prayer in response – God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference. I’ll give you that one if you’ll allow my addendum to the Serenity Prayer – And, Lord, please give one of those people you gave the wisdom to know the difference enough writing ability to expound on the Serenity Prayer just a tad.

I’m infected with Locklin’s hope. I guess I’m just wondering today if I should exult, or request some antibiotics.

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8 Responses to “Where We Are. Or Aren’t.”

  1. Michael Lasley Says:

    Serious question: are hope and contentment necessarily exclusive? Can we experience both at the same time?

  2. urbino Says:

    An excellent question, following on a thought-provoking post. Just the thing to kick the blog out of its doldrum.

    In my own life, at least in recent years, I focus more on contentment than hope. Hope is all about the future, which isn’t real. Contentment is about living in the present moment. (That’s the lesson I’ve been learning, anyway; whether it’s true or not, who knows? It seems to be for me, so far.) The real problem with hope isn’t that it’s about the future. One can be content in the present and still be mindful of the future. The problem with hope is it gets one all emotionally tangled up in the future. Then when that future becomes the present and the hope doesn’t pan out, you’re disappointed. That is, not content.

    Is there a way to hope without becoming emotionally entangled in the future?

    As for that Paul fella, I’d consider context. If that doesn’t make sense of his contradictions, chalk it up to his being “all things to all people.”

  3. Terry A. Says:

    Someone (not its original author) did indeed expound (or expand) upon the Serenity Prayer. Here’s the alleged addendum:

    God grant me the serenity
    To accept the things I cannot change;
    Courage to change the things I can;
    And wisdom to know the difference.

    Living one day at a time;
    Enjoying one moment at a time;
    Accepting hardships as the pathway to peace;
    Taking, as He did, this sinful world
    As it is, not as I would have it;
    Trusting that He will make all things right
    If I surrender to His Will;
    That I may be reasonably happy in this life
    And supremely happy with Him
    Forever in the next.

    What that has to do with hope, I don’t know. But at least it wasn’t a dirty limerick.

    As for this live-in-the-moment vibe: Live in the present and/or for the future. Just don’t live in the past, Uncle Rico.

  4. Al Sturgeon Says:

    My friend Jeff is a fellow WordPress resister (though I have fallen), so he didn’t add another login/password to his repertoire, but he added some valuable thoughts in a personal email.

    Here’s what he wrote:

    I think the “this world is not my home” idea is very destructive to the church and to humanity. The idea that we’re essentially “biding time” until heaven has kept the church focused on all the wrong things. I think N. T. Wright’s idea that we are working on bringing the kingdom here is truer to the biblical message and to Jesus’ own teaching.

    Having said that, we are restless and we do tend to seek and thrive on change (though it comes in many forms so that some think they prefer stability and predictability). I think this is because things are not as they are meant to be. So the quest/desire/yearning for change is a natural and even a good thing. The belief that it lies in some disconnected hereafter is not.

  5. Al Sturgeon Says:

    I don’t think hope and contentment are necessarily exclusive, Mikey, but for me they often are…

    I think Urbino hit on something when he said hope leads one to be “emotionally entangled” in the future. That’s how it works for me. He talked of how that leads to disappointment, but for me it goes one step further in keeping me from noticing/appreciating the present. Too busy planning for something better. And it’s an emotional rush.

    But Jeff’s thoughts make me feel better at least. I can’t see how yearning (and dreaming toward) making things better is such a bad thing. It’s the balance that kills me.

    So I guess I’m back to Urbino’s question: how do I yearn/dream/plan for better than today without getting so wrapped up in it emotionally that I don’t appreciate the beauty of today?

  6. urbino Says:

    I agree with Jeff, fwiw. Of course, hymns like “This World Is Not My Home” belong to another time, when the demographic of the churches where it was sung was decidedly tilted toward rural poverty. Such hymns served a slightly different — though perhaps still not entirely useful — purpose than when they are sung by college-educated middle-class American dreamers.

    And it’s an emotional rush.

    Yes. Hope is addictive that way. As is the kind of change portrayed in Locklin’s poem.

    I was with you, Al, until you got to “yearn.” Yearning sounds pretty emotionally entangled, to me.

  7. alsturgeon Says:

    Maybe so. But wait ’til my book comes out: The Audacity of Yearn.

    A nice ring, no?

  8. urbino Says:

    The same book in verse: Ode on a Grecian Yearn.

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