These are hard days in so many ways. Much of the time, it seems like the headlines are in competition for the worst news. The disappointments and challenges of daily life and relationships can seem magnified through that lens, and then things come up that really are big. Being alive is hard work. Some days, I don’t feel hopeful.
That can be challenging, since there are some folks who tell me they count on me to bring the hope.
One of the main ways I get through those days is by trying to remember that feeling hopeful isn’t the point. Hope isn’t about how I feel, or what I think, or even what I see as the odds of things turning in a better direction. Vaçlav Havel put it best, I think, when he wrote, “Hope is not prognostication. It is an orientation of the spirit.”
In other words, hope isn’t optimism. It isn’t defined by the odds. It is defined by where we point our lives, sometimes in spite of how we feel, rather than because of it. Hope, in the end, is a choice, rather than a circumstance. And we choose it, when we do, because we don’t know where it leads. Sometimes, in spite of reasonable predictions to the contrary, amazingly wonderful things happen. Sometimes, we give it our best, and it all goes south anyway.
Despair is more predictable than that — Despair leads to inaction, and when we make no effort, things pretty consistently turn out poorly. Not every time, but almost.
So hope is the better bet. Hope leads to action, and action can lead anywhere. Despair leads to inaction, and that generally leads nowhere good. Keeping that understanding of hope, not as a passive emotion, but as an active choice, helps me get through hard days, and helps me to keep showing up, even when I don’t feel like it.
There are other tools in the bag for the heaviest days, too — one is music, another is turning off devices and gathering in real space with kind people to share something beautiful, a third is to take some action toward the good, any action (right now, if you’re in the U.S., I suggest reaching out to the folks around you to remind them that Nov. 6 is voting day, and make sure they have rides, etc.) I am extremely fortunate that my ‘day job’ involves all of those things, and allows me to share them with other people.
Two weeks ago, I was fortunate to be invited to a gathering in Boston to remember Gene Sharp, one of the great practical theorists of nonviolent action in the 20th century. Shortly thereafter, I co-led a workshop called ‘OK, so I marched… now what?‘ with Rev. Dr. Diane Johnson at the Better Angels Conference in Montreat, NC. Earlier in September, I got to play at Muslimfest in Mississauga, Ontario, Canada with Abraham Jam, then I spent a couple of days with students at Westminster College in Pennsylvania, and led a two-day staff retreat for the Compassion, Peace and Justice folks at the national office of the Presbyterian Church (USA).
Those were some pretty amazing occasions to connect, be nourished by community, learn, and discern what is ours to do. Here are some more invitations to do some of those things. Hope to see you along the way…
• Abraham Jam‘s debut album, Abraham Jam Live, will be coming out on Nov. 11, and we’re celebrating with a big show in West Asheville, at Trinity United Methodist Church. Come celebrate with us, and please spread the word to any friends or groups you think would want to know about it! Tickets and details here.
• I’ve got a solo show coming up on Oct. 26 at the White Horse in Black Mountain, NC. I’m looking forward to playing some newer songs and dusting off some older ones as well. Amazing singer/songwriter Juan Holladay is opening, and it will be the debut performance of my new fiddle player (for one song): my son, Mason LaMotte. Mason will be turning 10 five days later, on Halloween, and I booked this show with that date in mind. We have been working on this song together for the last few months, and we can’t wait to share it with you. It really is special for me to be his accompanist. Hope you can join us! Tickets and details here.
…and there are lots of other events I’m really excited about: speaking at Laurinburg Pres. Church as part of a lecture series not far from Maxton, NC, where my grandfather was a pastor for many years, playing the Apex Music Festival in Apex, NC with dear friends and great musicians from around the country, speaking on ‘Story & Humor’ at Chatauqua Comes to Christmount in Black Mountain, and heading to the Parliament of World Religions in Toronto to perform with Abraham Jam in November. To check out the whole calendar, click here.
Thanks for being a part of the community that nourishes me on the hard days, as well as making the good days richer. I look forward to seeing you soon, and until then, here’s a song for the hard days.
Grateful to stand in the circle with you,