Hope or Cynicism–It’s a choice we all can make

Mercifully, the weather cooled and we
experienced a glorious Fall day in Nashville in mid-summer. As a result, I
cooled off and have a slightly more positive take on the conflicts that divide
us as well.

Mercifully, the temperature changed in Nashville, the humidity dropped and today was an absolutely glorious Fall-like day. In the middle of summer, when it’s usually the hottest, we enjoyed a morning temperature in the 60’s and the daytime temp was in the 80s. It was a real gift.

As a result, I have cooled my thinking about divisiveness in the society and the church as well. It’s amazing what a little positive stimulus can do, isn’t it?

That’s a point worth capturing. Positive stimulus results in positive energy, more often than not. Negative thinking results in negative energy. We can choose which we participate in and which we generate.

Don’t you get more energy from conversations in which people are genuinely engaged in problem-solving that make things better than in conversations in which they are thinking defensively, protecting turf, fearful that someone’s going to get an advantage over them and concentrating on power and control? As we all must do, I participate in both in a normal day and the ones that leave me energized are those that are dedicated to making things better.

This is the real tragedy of our polarized national dialogue, and within our religious organizations. When we are under attack or feel we must defend ourselves, our energy is channelled into defensiveness and self-preservation rather than the release of positive energy which occurs when we feel affirmed. It’s when we feel safe and secure that we share thinking that solves problems and opens new possibilities.

If the “social energy,” as Rabbi Michael Lerner called it last week in the conference for the Network of Spiritual Progressives, is directed toward positive ends, it generates a whole new feeling and attitude. I think it’s time for that.

We need to put our best thinking into how to end poverty, feed hungry children, clothe those who live at the level of survival, fight HIV/AIDS, malaria and TB around the world.

We need to direct our energy to bringing peace to Iraq, Sudan, Israel-Palestine and the dozens of other places where humanity is under attack.

I’d much rather be engaged in those efforts that generate positive energy and produce positive results. And Lord knows there’s plenty of opportunity to do this. We just have to make a conscious choice to engage in those things that create the positive social energy that releases our creativity and best thinking.

It comes down to a choice between cynicism or hope. Hope is like a refreshing, cool day. It gives you energy. Cynicism, on the other hand, is more like a hot, muggy day that wears you down and drains you.

Unlike the weather, however, we can actually influence this. It’s within our ability to contribute to refreshing hope or draining cynicism. The choice is left to each of us.

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