Nathaniel on hope and charity
Friday, February 9, 2018
5:55 a.m. If you’re up for it, then, how about hope and charity? Faith was very interesting, took an unexpected turn. And, last night, I was reassured as so often to try thinking about hope as a possible topic and find that I had no idea what you might say about it. “Hope” is a somewhat nebulous term in our day, I’d say. Hope for the best, live in hope. Not a lot of content to it.
John Anthony West is in your mind, and his manifest contempt for what passes for civilization among you in his day and yours.
Yes. Not much hope for our “civilization” unless it changes greatly for the better, and it is clearly beyond human possibility to design and execute those changes at any 3D-driven level.
Yet in his final statement that you are watching, he was living in hope, was he not? Would you call that nebulous?
Well, it’s difficult to sort out – which I realize is your forte, sorting out. He was or seemed to be feeling that a great change was nearly upon us, after a lifetime’s struggle against entrenched stupidity and willful blindness. Yet his criticisms of our present day were no less trenchant and biting.
So, you see how quickly and easily we pass to the essence of what hope is. It is the expectation of something that cannot necessarily be defined or even more than vaguely sensed; nonetheless the expectation (as opposed to the formulation of what it is that is expected) is a real, certain, tangible presence.
A definite vagueness? A vague definiteness?
We’re smiling along with you, but it can be sorted out. You’ll see.
Start with the difference between faith and hope, remembering that we are not concerning ourselves with how these words and qualities have been understood, but rather how they may be understood henceforth, to assist you. Thus, call faith belief that certain things are true. Call hope belief that certain goals may be attained. Do you see how easily the distinction is made?
It flickers. My understanding of it, I mean.
Abraham Lincoln believed in the people. He believed in human equality. He believed in free government as an idea that had been passed to his generation from its revolutionary forebears. Those were acts of faith.
He hoped, on the other hand, for many developments, some of which transpired and some of which did not. He hoped to keep England and France from interfering; he hoped the South would accept compensated emancipation; he hoped to find a solution to the race problem by the “repatriation” of ex-slaves to Africa. He hoped that whatever latest general he was forced to rely on would measure up. You see the distinction, surely, between faith in principle and hope in outcome.
Yes, I suppose I do. It’s clear enough at this moment, anyway.
You have faith in human ability to contact non-physical sources of guidance. You hope that we will be able to shed light on a given subject.
Yes. Even if a given hope is disappointed, that doesn’t necessarily justify abandoning faith that in general the hope is justified.
We wouldn’t have put it quite that way, but yes, good enough.
Now remember, we are delineating the sins and virtues for a reason, a very practical stocking of your toolbox with cautions and reminders, so that you may have life, and have it more abundantly, as Jesus put it. We aren’t endorsing previously held religious views and we aren’t proselytizing for your First Church of Frank. We are reminding you that you need all the tools and guidance you can get your hands on – or, we ought to say, can get your head around – if you are to make sense of new inputs, new conditions, new exigencies.
Thus, faith is helpful. Hope is helpful. They are power tools, multipliers of force, enablers of psychic judo, so to speak. Without them, you are half-disarmed. With them, you are half-ready.
Charity is different in intent and in effect from faith and hope. Faith and hope are attitudes you may take up with regard to what (seems to) happen to you. Charity is an attitude you may take up to shape how you happen to the world. It is your lodestone, orienting your actions. It prevents you from many a wrong orientation, hence from many a wrong action or thoughts.
Again Abraham Lincoln.
He is an outstanding example of a man shaped by living the three Christian virtues, though he did not regard himself as a Christian and joined no church even in his mind, let alone in his external allegiance.
Faith sustained him in his most difficult times, times when he feared he would be driven to kill himself (when he was young) and when he feared he was inadequate to his great responsibilities (when he was older).
Hope sustained him, similarly, in the times when logic and common sense would have persuaded him or anyone that hope was illusory. Like Churchill 80 years later, he clutched at each reason for hope as it appeared, but did not allow each subsequent disappointment to render him hopeless. If faith was belief in certain principles, hope was disbelief in certain ultimate outcomes.
Charity sustained him, in that he knew he meant well. In this he was like Robert E. Lee, who prayed for his enemies as well as for his friends.
Awareness of their good intent fortified them in hope that they were on God’s side?
That’s a little too definite. They both recognized that “God” could not be on both sides at once, as Lincoln pointed out. But let’s say, knowing that they were operating out of charity rather than hatred cleared not only their minds but their consciences. It did not – could not – guarantee success externally. It did enable success individually.
You’d better spell that out, I think.
You do it.
Lincoln and Lee lived the same double-edged life we all lead. The living of their lives concerned them; it also concerned the world around them, influenced by them. Nobody can have things all his own way externally; everybody succeeds and fails to some degree, considered as one person in the world. But that same person’s (seemingly) internal task, the inner life, does not depend upon external success and is not hampered by external failure.
Well, it may be. But the distinction remains. Even though your life is your own affair (on the one hand) and is part of the world (on the other), it is one life, not two, so the effects continually intertwine. Lincoln’s personal qualities affected his relations with those around him. His rise to political influence among the Whigs and then the Republicans affected his own day-to-day sense of himself. It is always a fluctuating balance, that’s how it’s designed.
So, to return to the focus, which is how you, reading this, may benefit from the discussion.
Life seems to happen to you. external events shape your life, day upon day. What is the most effective way to live that life?
You happen to life, too. Internal motivations guide you, moment by moment, and shape how you react and how you pro-act. What is the most effective way to live that life?
We suggest, remembering the seven deadly shoal-water markers will help in a negative way: Here there be, if not dragons, at least difficulties. Remembering the four cardinal virtues of prudence, justice, temperance and fortitude will help keep your ship balanced and seaworthy. And remembering faith, hope, and charity will provide a common-sense set of guidelines as you go along moment by moment.
But all this leaves unanswered the question – toward what? And that is where we will go, or may go, depending upon you, whenever we meet next. Tomorrow may be an appropriate day to rest from this.
Well, we’ll see. Thanks for all of this – not just today but this whole series. I wish it were easier to keep it all in mind.
We can help you do that too. but let’s round things off first.