Tag Archives: the future

Hope is not a program for reform.

What is the difference between optimism and hope? One difference is that the word “optimism” is not in the Bible, and the word “hope” is. They are two distinct words and at least one of them is worth contemplating. I like to quote Fr. Alexander Schmemann on this topic:

“If there are two heretical words in the Christian vocabulary, they would be ‘optimism’ and ‘pessimism.’ These two things are utterly anti-biblical and anti-Christian…. Our faith is not based on anything except on these two fundamental revelations: God so loved the world, and: The fallen world has been secretly, mysteriously redeemed.”

Hope is one of the three foundational virtues of the Christian life, as this article, “Hope,” explains. Its description of the absence of hope tells us:

“The opposite of hope is despondency and despair. According to the spiritual tradition of the Church, the state of despondency and despair is the most grievous and horrible condition that a person can be in. It is the worst and most harmful of the sinful states possible for the soul.”

That’s why the title of an article in the current issue of The New Atlantis got my attention: “How Tech Despair Can Set You Free” by Samuel Matlack.

The author of this article discusses the philosophy of Jacques Ellul, and quotes him as saying, in Hope in Time of Abandonment, “You cannot talk about hope. The question is how to live it.”

Jacques Ellul, 1912-1994

Matlack comments, “The reason you cannot talk about hope — or rather, cannot describe the action it takes — is this: Hope is not a program for reform, a solution to implement, or a prescription to follow. To borrow from the farmer and writer Wendell Berry, hope means ‘work for the present,’ whereas optimism means ‘making up a version of the future.'”

“What we do know is that Ellul’s own life bears ample testimony to hope. Here is one episode of many. Having lost his university position during the Nazi occupation of France, Ellul and his wife Yvette settled on a farm in a small village near the demarcation line, opening their door to Resistance fighters and Russians escaping German prison camps. With the help of neighbors — since Ellul knew nothing about farming — he grew potatoes and corn, with his wife raising chickens. As he once told the story, “I spent most of my time helping people get across into the free French zone. I was in cahoots with an organization that dealt in forged papers. So I was able to provide a whole series of people with forged identity cards.’”

About their own aims the editors of the journal from which I quote write: “Dystopian dread is the shadow of utopian dreams. The hope of The New Atlantis is to help steer away from both — and instead toward a culture in which science and technology work for, not on, human beings.”

In another article on this general subject, of how to live in a technological age, Alan Jacobs wrote in last winter’s issue; he also mentions Jacques Ellul as one of the early critics of the technological society in “From Tech Critique to Ways of Living.” It is accessible to read right now. And Samuel Matlack has written previously about Ellul, in 2014: “Confronting the Technological Society.”

There he writes, after Ellul: “What is needed is a true revolution, which Christianity by its essence is uniquely equipped to effect — being in the world but not of it, living the hope of a kingdom already here but not yet.”

True revolution is not a change in the political order, but has to be something far beyond that realm, and deeper; may the Lord show us the basis for our true Hope, and teach us how to live it.

Our soul waits for the Lord; He is our help and shield.
Yea, our hearts are glad in Him, because we trust in His holy name.
Let Thy steadfast love, O Lord, be upon us, even as we hope in Thee.

-Psalm 33

No radiation escapes to us.

When Les Murray died, some obituaries made reference to him “vanishing into the future.” This poem contains the source of that phrase, and makes me think of kairos, or “eternal time,” and the Kingdom of God, which is always a stretch of the mind, because our relationship to this time that we swim in is so mysterious.

I appreciate Murray’s exploration of the subject, which humbles me with the reminder of all that we don’t know, and the foolishness of getting caught up in our “projections.” I am comforted by the last lines bringing us back to Christ, and us together with Him, in the “future,” which, if we could see with the eyes of faith, is also Now. He not only “told us that evil would come,” but He said, “Lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the world.”

Fr. Stephen Freeman writes about time, history, and the Kingdom in “What’s With the Kingdom of God?” and in “Mystery as Reality,” asking, “…if the Kingdom of God is already complete and we are already able to participate in it and we await the day of its full manifestation, then what is the place of history and the events associated with our salvation that have occurred in space and time?”

I’ll leave the broader questions for now and hope that after all that rambling you can still enjoy this more focused poem for itself. The reference to yarrow stalks in the poem is in regard to their use in reading the I Ching.

THE FUTURE

There is nothing about it. Much science fiction is set there
but it is not about it. Prophecy is not about it.
It sways no yarrow stalks. And crystal is a mirror.
Even the man we nailed on a tree for a lookout
said little about it; he told us evil would come.
We see, by convention, a small living distance into it
but even that’s a projection. And all our projections
fail to curve where it curves.

It is the black hole
out of which no radiation escapes to us.
The commonplace and magnificent roads of our lives
go on some way through cityscape and landscape
or steeply sloping, or scree, into that sheer fall
where everything will be that we have ever sent there,
compacted, spinning – except perhaps us, to see it.
It is said we see the start.

But, from here, there’s a blindness.
The side-heaped chasm that will swallow all our present
blinds us to the normal sun that may be imagined
in their ordinary day. A day to which all our portraits,
ideals, revolutions, denim and dishabille
are quaintly heartrending. To see those people is impossible,
to greet them, mawkish. Nonetheless, I begin:
‘When I was alive –’

and I am turned around
to find myself looking at a cheerful picnic party,
the women decently legless, in muslin and gloves,
the men in beards and weskits, with the long
cheroots and duck trousers of the better sort,
relaxing on a stone verandah. Ceylon, or Sydney.

And as I look, I know they are utterly gone,
each one on his day, with pillow, small bottles, mist,
with all the futures they dreamed or dealt in, going
down to that engulfment everything approaches;
with the man on the tree, they have vanished into the Future.

-Les Murray

The only answer that makes sense!

My last post was mostly a quote from Metropolitan Anthony Bloom, and in my transcription I somehow left out a whole sentence and turned the meaning of the main point on its head! Ugh. So I am going to post it here again, and put in boldface the critical passage that I have corrected, so you don’t have to read the whole thing through if you don’t want to. It should make more sense now.

…the aim and content of our life…is to be where we are now, whereas ordinarily, catch bus runningand nearly all the time, we live as if we were trying to catch a bus.

We have an erroneous notion of time. The amazing thing in life, said a seventeenth century Russian philosopher, is that all the necessary things are simple and all the complicated things are useless. In fact, if we could only remember that time does not run away, that at a slow pace or at a gallop it rushes towards us, we should be much less fearful of losing it. Do you think that by going towards the hour of your death as fast as possible you can prevent it from coming, or catch it? Do you think that if you go on placidly, tranquilly listening to me, the hour of your deliverance will not come? In both cases it is time which is coming towards you, you have no need to run after it.

It is coming…and you will not escape it any more than it will escape you. Therefore we can establish ourselves quite peacefully where we are, knowing that if the time ahead has a meaning that is necessary for us, it is inevitably coming towards us at a sure and regular pace, sometimes more quickly than we could run to meet it.

On the other hand, if we establish ourselves peacefully in the present, we are living in a world of realities, whereas if we hurry towards the future, we are moving towards a world of unreality…. eternity and time are incommensurable with one another. Eternity is not an indefinite length of time; eternity is not the presence of time without end. The difference between time and eternity is that time is a category of the created: it appears at the moment when something which did not exist before begins to be and to become, and it exists as long as the becoming continues.

Eternity does not answer thePantocrator OW Hagia Sophia question ‘What?’ It answers the question ‘Who?’ Eternity is God, God who is always contemporaneous with each moment of time; He is always there, completely stable, unchanged and unchangeable because He already  has in Himself, before the first thing was, all the richness necessary to meet all things and all situations. He does not need to change in order to be contemporaneous.

It is useless to look for God within a time. He is in the time in which we are….

–Metropolitan Anthony Bloom, from “Holiness and Prayer” in God and Man.

“The future is something which everyone reaches at the rate of sixty minutes an hour, whatever he does, whoever he is.” CS Lewis

The question eternity answers.

I find nearly everything I’ve read from Metropolitan Anthony Bloom to be very encouraging, in the sense of giving me courage to do the things that I somewhat fear, but that I know are necessary for life. Time is a very practical subject to talk about, this most real quality of our created lives. And as he shows here, eternity is as well.

…the aim and content of our life…is to be where we are now, whereas ordinarily, catch bus runningand nearly all the time, we live as if we were trying to catch a bus.

We have an erroneous notion of time. The amazing thing in life, said a seventeenth century Russian philosopher, is that all the necessary things are simple and all the complicated things are useless. In fact, if we could only remember that time does not run away, that at a slow pace or at a gallop it rushes towards us, we should be much less fearful of losing it. Do you think that by going towards the hour of your death as fast as possible you can prevent it from coming, or catch it? Do you think that if you go on placidly, tranquilly listening to me, the hour of your deliverance will not come? In both cases it is time which is coming towards you, you have no need to run after it.

It is coming…and you will not escape it any more than it will escape you. Therefore we can establish ourselves quite peacefully where we are, knowing that if the time ahead has a meaning that is necessary for us, it is inevitably coming towards us at a sure and regular pace, sometimes more quickly than we could run to meet it.

On the other hand, if we establish ourselves peacefully in the present, we are living in a world of realities, whereas if we hurry towards the future, we are moving towards a world of unreality…. eternity and time are incommensurable with one another. Eternity is not an indefinite length of time; eternity is not the presence of time without end. The difference between time and eternity is that time is a category of the created: it appears at the moment when something which did not exist before begins to be and to become, and it exists as long as the becoming continues.

Eternity does not answer thePantocrator OW Hagia Sophia question ‘What?’ It answers the question ‘Who?’ Eternity is God, God who is always contemporaneous with each moment of time; He is always there, completely stable, unchanged and unchangeable because He already  has in Himself, before the first thing was, all the richness necessary to meet all things and all situations. He does not need to change in order to be contemporaneous.

It is useless to look for God within a time. He is in the time in which we are….

–Metropolitan Anthony Bloom, from “Holiness and Prayer” in God and Man.

 

“The future is something which everyone reaches at the rate of sixty minutes an hour,
whatever he does, whoever he is.”
-C.S. Lewis