In his annual Christmas/New Year’s letter, Benedictine monk and interfaith activist Br. David Steindl-Rast offers us a message of hope for 2020.
Isn’t Hope the annual theme at this season, when we light candles in the darkness and hope for a happy new year? But this year, the darkness seems deeper than ever before. “I want to share how terrified I am,” writes one friend among many. “The stress is high with no ending.” And therefore the request, “Write something, this Christmas time, to all of us in our helplessness.”
“Never ever depend on governments or institutions to solve any major problems,” says Margaret Mead. “All social change comes from the passion of individuals.”
Passion for change — that’s what i wish each one of you for 2020. We can overcome our sense of helplessness by turning it into passion for change. Only two things are needed: 1) Inform yourself; 2) Resist lazy excuses. Both have helped me. I’m a slow learner, but now i am ashamed of the excuses i used to find. The Rule of St. Benedict strictly forbids monks to eat meat. Yet, many of us who solemnly vow to keep that Rule, still find excuses. Kind people, whose kindness i strive to imitate, act, nevertheless, like sleepwalkers in the face of the world’s crisis. Our current catastrophe has not been caused by monsters, but by sleepwalkers.
“Wake up, wake up from sleep!” The sacred songs of this season keep repeating this wake-up call. And they sing of a child who will save us. One wide awake child is waking up many, these days: Greta Thunberg spoke up — kind, peaceful, and with passion — and in a short time millions of others have rallied behind her. To quote Margaret Mead once more: “Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed, citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has.” There is our hope.
We need to support that hope, till it hurts. We need to pray for it awake and with passion. And we need to remember that Hope is an attitude different from our hopes. When all our hopes are shattered, Hope remains as radical openness for surprise. it is that Hope I wish you. – Your brother David
About Brother David Steindl-Rast, OSB:
For decades, Brother David divided his time between periods of hermit’s life and extensive lecture tours on five continents. On a two-month lecture tour in Australia, for example, he gave 140 lectures and traveled 12,000 miles within Australia without backtracking. His wide spectrum of audiences has included starving students in Zaire and faculty at Harvard and Columbia Universities, Buddhist monks and Sufi retreatants, Papago Indians and German intellectuals, New Age communes and Naval Cadets at Annapolis, missionaries on Polynesian islands and gatherings at the United Nations, Green Berets and participants at international peace conferences. Brother David has brought spiritual depth into the lives of countless people whom he touches through his lectures, his workshops, and his writings. For decades, Br. David was a close friend and spiritual partner in interfaith work of Integral Yoga founder, Sri Swami Satchidananda. At present, Brother David serves a worldwide Network for Grateful Living, through Gratefulness.org, an interactive website with several thousand participants daily from more than 240 countries and territories.