November 27, 2011
Let us pray: It's a new season, O God, a season in which we are invited to wait with intent, to go deeper, to consider what it means to be people of faith, people of spirit, people of heart and open mind. May these words in some small way, be faithful to the spirit of that invitation, to the power of that way of framing our lives and faith in our journey through life with you. Amen.
The more Adam read and the more he considered the state of the world, the more he became enamoured with the idea of a “reset button”. He could not recall when the idea had first popped into his mind except for some vague recollection that a politician had said it during a campaign speech sometime in the past. The news was full of apocalyptic predictions. It didn't seem to matter whether it was the economy, the climate, political systems or pick any other number of areas and there were dire warnings about what might or what could happen. In some ways these predictions themselves contained something of a reset button option with them. So what if the economy in Greece or Italy failed. So what if the American government could not settle on a way to increase the spending limits on their own debt. After all economics was pretty much a human fabrication anyway. He couldn't help thinking: So what if it all collapsed? How would it affect him really? Sure, he felt incredibly sorry for people in the European countries. Seemingly through no fault of their own as individuals they were facing extremely hard times. He sympathised with the people out in the streets protesting the dramatic cutbacks that all the so-called experts said were necessary in order to get the financial system back on track. But how would a collapse in Greece or Italy, or failure to find agreement in a highly polarized multi-partisan committee in the United States affect him? The fact is that he didn't know – who really could know after all. His curious nature, while conscious of just how dire the predictions were, kind of secretly wondered what would happen if things were allowed to run their course. Would an economic collapse in Europe, dominoing into North America create the kind of change that he longed for, a change that would give an opportunity to start again and do a better job this time. He couldn't quite allow himself to consider this – he had just enough trust in those who were smarter than him who said that the hardships imposed by a financial bail-out package were better than the consequences of letting things ride. But he did wonder...
And sadly, that was only one thing. What if we make it through this big concern with the economy? It was perhaps the most urgent, but what about everything in the news today that painted nasty pictures of the state the world was in because of climate change. It seemed that every time he turned on the television, fired up his web browser, switched on his radio, or opened up a newspaper, there was another story about an extreme weather event in some part of the world, or predictions from those who should know about these things about what was going to happen if we didn't start doing something about our rate of consumption of the fossil layer of the earth's crust. It didn't seem to matter whether we were burning it, or exploring it for more oil, gas, coal, or bitumen to burn, refine or extract, we were exacting a cruel punishment on a finite supply of land. And of course, burning it was only one of the problems. The side effects of the processes to mine, refine and extract it were causing concerns all their own – for ducks, bears, caribou and human beings alike.
The news had recently been all over the fact that we had now reached seven billion as the population of the earth. It was hard to imagine when in not much more than five minutes from his apartment he could find solitude in the rock of the Canadian Shield and other than the granola bar wrappers, pop cans and chip bags that populated the willow bushes around him see no other sign of human habitation and meet no one else in an hour of sitting and thinking or an hour of wandering and pondering. Still seven billion people had to carry its own weight on the surface of the earth. He wondered how many more people this little planet could sustain.
An asteroid had come hurtling toward the earth last week a little closer than the distance of the moon. Would the next one go hurtling by? Would there be time for human ingenuity to figure out a way to deflect it, or would it be the source of the reset button that he both hoped for and dreaded. The dinosaurs had not fared too well the last time something like that happened.
The so-called “Arab Spring” which of course turned into an Arab summer and Arab fall, and moving in a renewed wave in Egypt into an Arab winter, was a sign that “reset buttons” were sort of possible. He was both intrigued and wary about how it would all turn out.
The same could be said closer to home. Adam was mildly excited when he first heard about the Occupy movement. Maybe this was it, he thought. He certainly sympathised with most of the things the New York marchers were saying – even if their concerns were kind of all over the map. The excitement increased for him when the movement started to spread, and especially when it made its way into some of the large Canadian cities. But it wasn't lasting – his excitement turned to discouragement – with the protesters and the cities in which they were protesting. The protest needed a bit more focus, and the municipal governments needed a bit more flexibility. He didn't think it was all over, the occupy movement had touched a nerve and he was pretty sure that regardless of whether the campers were being evicted or not, it would have a lasting influence on the way things get done.
It would be wrong to think of Adam as a hopeless pessimist. He loved his life. He loved the fact that he could in five minutes get away from it all, even if the discarded pop cans, chip bags and granola bar wrappers were a major annoyance. He could find any number of mysteries to ponder and marvel at. He could spend hours with his iPad surfing and researching the breadth and depth of human knowledge, the things we know and have learned, but even more impressive, the number of things we don't know and the many mysteries that make human life so incredibly interesting and worthy of deep reflection. He loved finding a spot on a nearby lakeshore, summer, spring, winter or fall and looking out across the water. It always made him wonder what it is that made him think that it was so beautiful, and what it was that instilled such hope, contentment, and awe within him. But despite the wondering, he also accepted that it did indeed instill hope, contentment and awe.
It also gave him some context for the reset button that he could hardly wait for. He wouldn't express it as faith – at least not with that word, it wasn't part of who he is. But it was spiritual – more about heart than head, although for Adam you could not separate the two into discrete little pieces. He knew from literature classes and his prolific reading regimen that there were biblical and scientific examples of the so called reset button, whether it was the flood and Noah, or the mighty impact that had ended the evolutionary journey of the dinosaurs, the virus plagues that had swept across continents, or the story of Jesus, Buddha, and Mohammed to name only three which had created reset button experiences of their own to change the course of history.
The reset button that Adam could hardly wait for was not the depressing desire of someone who couldn't see any other way. It was a hopeful belief that things can get better, that human institutions can change, perhaps in an evolutionary, gradually changing way or perhaps by hitting a reset button which changes the game, gives an opportunity to start afresh. It was also a hopeful, heartful sense that something, someone, some power, some force, some presence was at work in the world, directing, guiding, instilling desire, creating love: for beauty, for relationship, for higher purpose.
Adam could hardly wait, but that didn't mean that he couldn't wait at all. Besides there were things he could do while he waited, and there were things beyond his control. And so he waited....Amen.