by Charles LaFond
“Does anything in nature despair except man? An animal with a foot caught in a trap does not seem to despair. It is too busy trying to survive. It is all closed in, to a kind of still, intense waiting. Is this a key? Keep busy with survival. Imitate the trees. Learn to lose in order to recover, and remember that nothing stays the same for long, not even pain, psychic pain. Sit it out. Let it all pass. Let it go.”
May Sarton, Journal of a Solitude
Despair. We all face it from time to time but it is the big secret. We all carry it around with us like loose change, aware it is making a slight noise when we walk, but not really having the energy to pull it out and place it in the coin jar for the next trip to the Coinstar machine which will give me real bills. Despair is hopelessness and it is dangerous for a priest to write of it since the charge of over-intimacy will inevitably be levied. But does that not simply keep the conspiracy of silence and block any hope of change? The silences of people wondering about ashes falling into picnics in the little village of Auschwitz – was that right? Flake by flake. Silence by silence?
We all experience despair even if for only a morning or an evening and yet we never, ever speak of it out loud. Impolite. Intimate. No.
So we never share our stories of it, never lend each other courage over it, and never, ever discuss the flakes in our coffee mugs.
Walking yesterday with a friend after coffee, he asked me if I thought people who look so tidy and smart in fashionable clothes on Sunday felt despair. I said that my experience tells me that 300 of the 700 are in despair of some kind but that the society in which we live will keep it hidden so that it smolders and burns rather than come into contact with cool water. That’s how satan works. He keeps us separate, silent, polite and smoldering.
But there is another way. It would take courage. It would take telling our stories. Out loud.
The next annual stewardship campaign theme for the cathedral in the fall is “telling our stories” using mixed media and art visuals of spilled ink on paper. It is so wonderful! It will be so good and healing. Who cares if it raises money?! It will heal and for many that’s enough. And maybe, just maybe, the healing will loosen tight fists and the raising of money will be a side benefit. And how wonderful would that be?