We Are Following a Dangerous Path

On October 14, 2021 I ended my blog article with the following statement: “This is my final post on Hope and Stone for a while. I need to follow my own advice: spend more time pondering and less time postulating. The site will return sometime in the future.  Thanks for reading and I look forward to further conversations with you as we live our way into the questions that face us and our nation.”

During the interim between then and now I’ve spent time thinking about my intention in writing a blog. Was it the ego gratification of seeing my words in writing each week? Was it a way to vent my frustration with the state of my nation and the world? Was it to share thoughts with friends and neighbors? Was it a method of working out my own ideas and opinions, of clarifying my own thinking by putting it in writing?

It was probably all of the above, but a larger, overarching theme surfaced during my hiatus:  The blog was my way of responding to my belief that humanity is following a dangerous path, one that leads to the erosion of civility, autocracy replacing democracy, planetary destruction, increasing inequality and pervasive racial enmity.

An Undertone of Anger

I was never egocentrically disillusioned enough to believe that my writing would prompt, or even influence, societal change. I merely hoped that it would foster conversation. During much of my career I held leadership posts that offered me ways of engaging crucial issues and influencing policy.  The last few years I have felt neutered, wondering how an old guy without a portfolio could best contribute in a substantive way. This was frustrating, and my frustration too often had an undertone of anger that became ingrained in my writing.

But getting frustrated and angry about where American civic life is today is understandable. To do something about it, however, requires a strategic engagement and I have struggled to find the appropriate response.

I know that one person responding alone will not fix anything. What will begin to repair the breach is a movement that brings the nation together around a common vision.  All of us have a responsibility to work toward that goal. This does not mean that we must all have the same ideology, the same thinking, or draw the same conclusions from the same set of facts. It does mean that we have to work hard to discern what is true, what is false…what is a response to fact vs a response to ideology or political loyalty.

Fact Checking

Discussing ideas and analyzing current public issues is where I want to go with Hope and Stone. I’ll state my views and share my hopes. I will express ideas that will certainly reflect my liberal bias, but I will be diligent in doing the critical-thinking homework necessary to take me beyond my gut-level opinion. I won’t sit down to write a knee-jerk reflection about words and actions I disagree with, but I won’t shy away from disagreeing.  I will pay more attention to fact checking my work to ensure that my opinions are firmly grounded in truth. (If you would be interested in the fact-checking sources I use, send me an email and I’ll forward the list to you.)

During my time of hiatus, I pondered and journaled about the message in my first post, nearly two years ago, What I Believe (read it here). My basic and deeply held beliefs have not changed. They have been honed by decades of relationships, work, study and a combination of successes and failures. I also spent time thinking about how I came up with the blog’s title, Hope and Stone (click here to read). To me, hope is a deep-seeded sense that goodness can prevail over darkness, and stone represents the hard work it takes to bring hope into a substantive reality.

Jane Goodall’s Book of Hope

In her Book of Hope Jane Goodall wrote “Hope is misunderstood. People tend to think that it is simply passive wishful thinking… This is indeed the opposite of real hope, which requires action and engagement.” For instance, she wrote “Many people understand the dire state of the planet––but do nothing because they feel hopeless and helpless. Our actions, no matter how small, can make a difference when combined with those of others. ..The cumulative effect of thousands of ethical actions can help save and improve our world for future generations.”

Hope, she continues “is a crucial survival trait that has sustained our species from the time of our Stone Age ancestors…Hope is contagious. Let us use the gift of our lives to make this a better world for the sake of our children and theirs…for the sake of those struggling in poverty…for the sake of the lonely…and for the sake of our brothers and sisters in the natural world––the animals, the plants and the trees. Please rise to the challenge…find your reasons for hope and let them guide you onward.”

My goal is to play a small part in spreading the contagion of hope through posts on this blog site, and I invite you to play your part by sharing your ideas and responses. Thanks for reading, and I look forward to hearing from you. But I want to be clear: this does not mean forsaking what I consider hard truths; or, pointing out what I think are bad decisions; or calling out what I believe are untruths. Being hopeful requires always striving to be truthful; always refusing to listen to or to speak nonsense; and, always acknowledging when I am wrong.

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