Look Up for Authentic Hope
In the Sunday Review of this morning’s New York Times, Opinion Columnist Frank Bruni’s essay is called “Who Will We Be Without Donald Trump?”
Isn’t that the $64,000 question?
As Mr. Bruni says, “We were supposed to be breathing a huge sigh of relief about Joe Biden’s victory. But instead [my friend] was finding a fresh source of outrage about Trump.
“And here I am writing about Trump — again. It’s a tic, not one I’m proud of. But I’m surrendering to it now to acknowledge that I can’t continue doing so. None of us can.”
But so many of us still are, aren’t we?
For all the articles in the press and on social media, much of our focus has been on how to Dump Trump, hasn’t it? The outrage is in high gear, too, due to the Machiavellian machinations the lame-duck administration continues to perpetrate in the name of guaranteeing the longevity of Mr. Trump’s alleged legacy.
Maureen Dowd, my all-time favorite Opinion Columnist, characterizes it this way: “Donald Trump, who is trashing this place before checking out like he’s Axl Rose at a Four Seasons.”
Mr. Bruni again, “I’m not talking just about journalists. An obsession with Trump as the brute of all evil extends far beyond us.” The brute of all evil — what a deliciously devilish turn of phrase.
Strangely, I know whereof Mr. Bruni speaks, or, really, laments. I have wondered myself what will happen to political stand-up comedy, to political writing, to political satire (remember that!) Mr. Trump is a diabolical master at intermittent reward — the same addictive patterning that underlies our addiction to our devices.
At one point after Joe Biden was declared the winner, I wondered if it would be possible to do a sort of reverse media blitz — perhaps a media white-out — of the incumbent. Wouldn’t that be the greatest humiliation he could experience after losing?
Ah, but could we actually get the media to freeze out/x-out/silence-out Donald Trump? I don’t think so, despite how good it might be for all of us. We have a hard time looking up from our devices, too.
Honestly, Freud’s Pleasure Pain Principle has raised its draconian skull. “The pain pleasure principle, developed by Sigmund Freud, suggests that people make choices to avoid or decrease pain or make choices that create or increase pleasure. The pain pleasure principle is the core of all the decisions we make. Beliefs, values, actions and decisions are built upon this principle.” So typical of me to remember it as putting pleasure before pain rather than how it’s usually written in the reverse!
I think this is the binary rut we’re traversing with 45. On every level.
We’re avoiding pain. We’re seeking pleasure. And even when we find a little pleasure — mere moments or notes of goodness, kindness, happiness, and the ghost of the American way — we go almost instantly into fear that the pleasure will somehow be taken away. Because that’s how it’s been for years now.
So, there’s good news and there’s bad news, Beloved.
The good news is that the Narcissist-in-Chief is soon to lose his in-Chief status. Then he’ll just be the premier narcissist in the U.S.
The bad news is that what he represents isn’t anywhere near close to gone. Still, there are underground rumblings, murmurs, grievance, and there are also flare-ups, violence, and almost half the country who think that what he represents is the way to go.
Let us parse this out very finely, Beloved. To do this, I call on cultural essayist Rebecca Solnit.
“The world seems divided between false hope and gratuitous despair. Despair demands less of us, it’s more predictable, and in a sad way safer. Authentic hope requires clarity — seeing the troubles in this world — and imagination, seeing what might lie beyond these situations that are perhaps not inevitable and immutable.”
Translation, constituting several points:
1. Narcissism offers a narrative of false hope. Me before thee is a false premise.
2. For the voters on the other side: despair is too easy a response, not nuanced, and, if you will, in my not-so-humble opinion, lazy.
3. Clarity is the missing ingredient — for all of us on all sides of all issues.
4. The only thing needed to save the day (and save us all from the false hope) is Imagination.
Yes, I did say that.
Imagination is the one requirement, the savior that can appear at any time, if we’ll invite it, cultivate it, answer its summons, let it in, and let it have free reign under the rubric SOLUTIONS.
Consider the wisdom of one of the smartest persons ever to live, Albert Einstein, “Imagination is everything.”
Now admittedly, there is that tricky little pivot in the middle which Ms. Solnit calls clarity. And we must remember, Beloved, that clarity isn’t dependent upon consensus. Clarity can come to one person.
Just one is enough.
What I wonder now is: Is that person you? Is that person me? And why shouldn’t it be either one of us?
Mr. Bruni laments that no one is about to “cue up Peaches and Herb’s 2007 anthem ‘Reunited.’” To that I say, Really, Mr. Bruni? Really?
Because as far as I’m concerned, any one individual looking up from their device, and reunited with their own imagination is a whopping good reason to celebrate the dawn of Authentic Hope.
P.S. I went to do my daily post on Instagram and just saw @hecksign’s drawing of author George Eliot. The quote was: What we call despair is often the painful eagerness of unfed hope.
Dr. Susan Corso is a spiritual teacher, the founder of iAmpersand, and the author of The Mex Mysteries, the Boots & Boas Books, and spiritual nonfiction. Her website is susancorso.com.