Joe Biden was in Portland on the Merrill stage talking about his book. (Promise me Dad). Beau, Joe’s son, “made him swear that he was not going to give up on either hope or purpose. That he was going to be o.k.”. On another recent night I watched an interview with Jimmy Carter on what was his 30th book tour. Jimmy of course has had ample ample reasons over the years to be discouraged. (Who wouldn’t be discouraged with Iran not releasing U.S hostages until he was officially out of office, for example, or being fired by the American people). He voiced that he really still believes it is his duty to hold on to both personal faith and hope.
These common threads from both men, spurred me to consider a really simplistic two word message. Neither was “preachy” but both wanted us to grasp “faith and hope, don’t give up on either of these.” Neither of them shirked away from offering what they considered really important. What follows is a fractured telling of the famous parable about not giving up (having faith), and believing.
TRIM YOUR WICK.
A long time ago there were a group of bridesmaids having a great “girl’s night out” before one of their friends was to be married. The groom, asked them to wait for him, as he was sure to join them after attending his own family’s party. Then they would all go together to have a great post wedding bash. Some of the girls saved oil, “trimmed the wicks in their lamps,” so that he’d find them in the pre-electricity long dark night; and some of the others just gave up and blazed that night away. Those who didn’t “trim wicks” eventually ran out of oil (surprise/ surprise). Before the groom arrived, when it grew oh so late, those who were out of oil asked if they could borrow some from those who had saved. But generosity isn’t at the heart of this story, The girls who had trusted that he’d return as promised said: “no, we saved on our oil, so they’ll be able to find us”, and so when he finally came back, went on to the best party going. Those left out called out in the dark night, they knocked and knocked at the door of his locked rooms, to which he replied: “I can’t see you,” i.e. he refused to let them enter. I think one lesson is: don’t give up, he said he was coming back to pick us up and he will. Save for then. Have faith he will come, and when he does, we’ll go to one of the great storied wedding parties of all time.
The point is that many of us get really down, these days, about our every day events. We owe it to ourselves, however, to stay hopeful and strong. That’s the promise in the idea that, “the arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends toward justice.” Aren’t we all tempted, when the events of the day gets dark to lose it? To simply give up. No. Keep the faith. I would have us remember values held by simple guys who have lasted into the dark night. Guys such as Joe Biden and Jimmy Carter. A good thing to remember on a dark December’s Eve.
As a coda, or post-post -script, this is intended to be all about “hope” in a dark night. So, I include this: “Bruce Springsteen says: “We are ghosts or we are ancestors in our children’s lives. We either lay our mistakes, our burdens upon them, and we haunt them, or we assist them in laying those old burdens down and we free them from the chain of our own flawed behavior. And as ancestors, we walk alongside of them, and we assist them in finding their own way and some transcendence.