Monday, September 17, 2012

The Heart of Hope

Most people agree that it is always uplifting and jolly to have me as a Facebook friend. For instance, the other day, I posted this, in the wake of the recent American embassy attacks:

Let me get this straight: some ass in California releases an offensive video about Islam and those who are offended by it go on a killing spree against America. Explain to me, again, how it is that I'm not supposed to lose my faith in humanity?

My first friend to respond was Denise, who said, quite powerfully (and very sweetly): "Your children."

At first, this made me feel nice -- I got that warm belly feeling. I thought: Yeah. My kids are good people. They will do good things. Maybe there is hope. 

But then I thought about it more. They are good kids. But guess where their worst behavior happens? In groups.

They're not bullies. They're not evil. In fact, they are so exceptionally well-behaved, I often find myself wishing, just once, they would do something wrong in school -- just for the sake of establishing a little bit of a sense of power and a tiny pinch of healthy rebellion in their hearts.

It just seems that when the group of kids gets bigger, the problems start. "Teams" form and someone ultimately gets left out. Someone becomes the outcast. Temptations form and peer pressure mounts. Sometimes my kids are the victims, sometimes they are not. I watch this from my window, on occasion, and I wait for them to make the right moves. Most often, they do. Sometimes, they don't. What gets me is that they often seem so seek out confrontation -- all of the kids do. (Purpose and power, I suppose -- like [on an amplified scale, of course] "taking control" and attacking an embassy because of a half-rate You Tube video. A reason to fight! Let's go... Nothing like an excuse to act badly -- like a bad call at a soccer match. That sort of thing. )

Segovia; an orchestra at his fingertips; alone.
On their own, my boys are kind to a fault. On their own, they are peaceful and even philosophical. (The three of us just had a discussion over lunch about the different concepts of God and whether science precludes Creation and what the difference is between believing in "The Universe" and believing in God as an active controller of destiny. They are eight and ten -- and I didn't bring this stuff up; my ten year-old did.) On their own, their innocence and their inner and outer beauty keep my throat in a constant knot. But start with putting them together and then multiplying kids into the equation: two, three, ten... Then, the problems start.

I still maintain it: people bring out the worst in each other. Humanity sucks; individual humans are beautiful. I know we are inextricably entangled with each other and there is no way out, really. This means we have to wade out into the sewage and still try to stay clean. As a result, people will praise us when we are not cruel; when we don't steal; when we help others -- as if it shouldn't be surprising that actions of this kind are the exceptions.

I'm not as dumb as I look. I know there are centuries of bad experiences behind the actions of the embassy attackers. But that just supports what I'm saying here, as far as I am concerned. One group decides it is superior to another; fighting starts; cruelty beyond belief comes out of the fighting. It's the same old song and it always ends on a dissonance.

No -- I don't believe in humanity. I don't think we will ever reach that place forecast on Star Trek -- a time when all of Earth is in peace and all humans respect all others. Gene Roddenberry was an optimist, heaven love him, and that made him something original in the sci-fi annals. Sadly, I join with the rest of the doomsayers. Sadly, I subscribe to usual sci-fi cliche: I see a dark future.

I'll seek my hope in you, dear reader. I don't believe in politics or in armies or in societies or in schools of thought. I my hope lies in you. In you, alone. In what you do when the doors close and the screaming righteousness of others in your lives is no more substantial than the buzz left in my own ears as I drive home from a night of hitting the drums -- when the radio is off; engine humming low, houses sleeping, streets wet and dark.

We are each our own hope, my friends. I hope my sons grow to understand that.

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