Saturday, July 03, 2004

Politics of hope

While I have an enormous pile of books in the corner just waiting to be read, this last week I kept coming back to Jeremy Groopman's essays on dealing with chronic illness. He calls his book The Anatomy of Hope: how people prevail in the face of illness.

While it's an easy read, it was the stories that kept my attention despite being surrounded by kids over on a playdate screaming bloody murder in my ears.

Groopman tells stories, compelling and authentic stories about how people face their own illness.* Yet it comes off as a very personal journey as Groopman relates his own evolution in figuring out what truly truly is helpful in facing monsters such as a cancer diagnosis and a terminal prognosis.

He concludes his role is to help his patients find hope, which I know to be that thing with feathers. He begins the book with Pandora's story. Hope was the last blessing in the opened Pandora's box, the only blessing that didn't make it out into the great ethers. Hope was the only blessing left for humans.

He delineates hope in two shadings, true and false. True hope, unlike the other, is connected to reality. And from my read, true hope is about connecting to that place of inner inspiration, whatever you define that to be. For many, it's found within a religious frame but it certainly does not have to be defined that way. I believe this is a personal journey about reaching within for what brings true meaning in your life.

Being somewhat obsessed with politics, I wrestled with conceptualizing illness, healing, and hope within a larger framework. I wondered if we could apply these concepts to us as a nation. We have here in our body politic, in our nation, our persona as a nation, a serious problem, a chronic illness, if you will. At this point, I'm not sure what to call it. What comes to mind are diseases such as fascism, sociopathy, apathy, separatism, class warfare, whatever. The list is endless.

True hope is grounded in reality, but it reaches out. With apologies to Groopman, since I don't know what his political leanings may be, it seems as though we could all use a new paradigm in politics based on hope. I'd like to see effort into translating the process of finding what really is meaningful in our lives to the political.

I think if Kerry and his soon-to-be ordained VP is able to get this message acoss to us, I'm almost certain this will resonate with those who are undecided. And for those grappling with the role of religion in politics, it seems to me if we can translate what is universally valuable and meaningful in religion, we might find they are values common to all of us. Terms such as fairness and true compassion, not faux, are some examples I'm thinking of because, to be sure, I'm certainly not 'religious' in any conventional sense.

Groopman believes true hope is healing. If we could think about politics in these terms, get that positive campaign going, it would be a fine sight to see the start of healing in our national psyche.

*Please visit Dave Pollard who writes about the importance of stories.