There’s the rage and the grief of these times: fires destroying my state, Kavanaugh, soldiers waiting to attack the shoeless refugees at my border, and—oh, yeah—the attempted destruction of our democracy. But these are not what make me feel like giving up some days. They are not what do me in; neither are what look to my tiny princess self like treason, or the UN Report on climate change, the one that gives us 12 years to turn things around before a cataclysm. Oh well, these things happen. My grandson will be 21 in 2130—he will have had a good run.
These were the catastrophes that had my book tour audiences in literal tears, ready to give up on goodness, sanity, decent futures for their loved ones.
But not me, baby. A few little bumps in the road don’t make me give up, because there is so much to do, and the work brings us well-being—rest a while, march, feed the poor—go outside and look up. I read them the chapter called “Don’t Let Them Get You To Hate Them.” Love is why we have hope, and hope is why we never give up. I redistributed the wealth of Hershey’s Kisses and M & M’s that my readers give me. We had Hershey’s Kiss communions, we looked into each other’s eyes. We were connected and okay for the moment, which is pretty much all we ever have.
Some of them join me in the belief that we shall overcome, although it may not be Tuesday right after lunch. That we already have everything we need inside us, a connection to the love we carry within us, that is greater than us and has a life of its own. My writer friend Mark Yaconelli has promised me that this love goes beyond our beliefs, rules and identities, and that the more we give our lives to love’s power, the wider this channel opens up inside us and around, till we find ourselves living in its wake.
I reminded people that we have already lived through times that were catastrophically insane—Florida 2000 comes to mind, Iraq, the torture. And that we will again, because over and over we discover that love and goodness are sovereign here. Look at how against all odds, we’ve once again saved Obamacare, look at the student marches, the firefighters here in California. I mean Wow, the third great prayer. Or, for you non-believers, Holy Shit.
People in my audiences asked if there was anything I couldn't bear up under—anything that made me feel like giving up.
You mean, beside the fact that I am turning into grandma pudding, and not just the upper arms? You mean besides my cherished cat having run away while I was on vacation? You mean other than those?
Yes. There is one thing. It’s the fever dream weirdness of it all, the druggy freakshow of the numbskulls in power, the furious, badgering incoherence.
On the day I got home from book tour, two days ago, pooped and ecstatic, Trump decreed that these fires—1,000 people missing!—were a result of not raking leaves. Through prayer and meditation, a few phone calls and a LOT of popcorn, I calmed myself. And then, in an interview about Mueller’s questions, he said, “I answered them very easily... The questions were very routinely answered by me -- by me. OK?”
Who TALKS like this? I could not find my footing for awhile. This is what my friend’s grandfather use to call “crab salad.” This is what leaves me tottering near hopelessness, because there is no appropriate response, not even silence. And I might have given up on the power of rising up, of resurrection, if I did not have my precious community, my faith, my pets, the Blue Wave, and bags of Halloween candy on sale for $1.99. (You actually lose money if you don’t buy a sack or two.)
But the main reason I don’t give up is because desperation has given us Mother Strength. Black Lives Matter, the student marches against gun violence, the new House—we got mother strength when Elizabeth Warren would not shut up on the Senate floor while reading the letter of Coretta Scott King, even though Mitch McConnell told her to, repeatedly. We have the strength of a mother whose child is very, very sick, and there is nothing on earth more powerful.
My favorite scripture passage of all time is Rumi saying that through love, all pain will turn to medicine, which so recently the Parkland students gave us, but my second favorite is in Matthew 15, when the Gentile woman begs an exhausted Jesus to come heal her dying daughter. He is trying to rest, and besides, has thought until then that his mission is to save only the Chosen people, so he tells her, “Maybe later, when I’ve rested, and everyone has eaten.” She famously replies that even dogs will eat before her people, that the dogs will get the leftovers from the children’s table, that the dogs are next in line, before her child.
And this sassy shiksa talking back radicalizes him. He no longer sees his mission of love and healing as exclusive.
This might well be from today. Jesus insults her in a conventionally racist way, and when she gives him back as good as she has gotten, he all but smites His own forehead. She’s right: he needs to heal her child. My Jesuit friend Jim Harbaugh says, “It’s her faith, but you could also correctly say it's her balls. I like that Jesus likes that in a woman.”
She has the G.O.D., the gift of desperation. I know that the mystery of grace means that Donald Trump is the sick child, too, as precious to God as your newest nephew, niece, baby daughter,
AND that his brutal ignorant incoherence, the savage syntax, has bestowed on me the miserable blessing of desperation, that can change the world. I see it all around me now, finally; in you, in our young, in our elderly; and we can be glad in it.