Paying Attention
Bill McDonald’s Website Newsletter
January 2017 - Volume 17, No. 1
Subscribe to this blog

An Anatomy of Hope for 2017 (Part One)

In recent months I’ve been searching for a congruent “anatomy” (or at least a useful skeleton) to organize my thinking about what’s happening in our world, as well as what it and I can offer as a meaningful future for our people.

Many of my clients are in distress. Many of my friends and neighbors are in distress. My country and the world are in distress. I sometimes feel as if I’m standing in the middle, struggling to hold some small parts of it together. No, this is not a messianic fantasy, but rather a gift of necessity for those specific folks who do look to me for hope. 

The poet Yeats famously wrote in 1919, in the immediate aftermath of WW1, 

“Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold;  Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world.” (“The Second Coming”) 

A Deep Despair

Recently I’ve been pondering a well-known Buddhist teaching that goes like this: “If you meet the Buddha on the road, kill him.” Briefly it translates, “if you come across someone who has all the answers, kill him or her before you’re tempted to buy into that teacher’s system. Every guru just turns out to be another struggling human being. The secret is that there is no secret.

I’ve watched for months, how a woefully deficient man, Donald Trump, kept presenting himself as if the holder of a secret recipe for idealistic greatness, for the eradication of public suffering and malaise. He would demonize much of what is already great about us, in order to better present Himself as the Savior of the Republic - whose secret recipe as the great “deal-maker” would alone lead us to the mythic greatness his strange and hypnotic logic seemed to portray. 

Does anyone have a memory of what snake oil smells like? Or Nuremberg?

Now obviously from my words so far, you can tell where I stand politically within the spectrum of current politics, but don’t look at me with just those narrow eyes. We need a wider spectrum, especially now, to save us all from a larger destruction of soul and self. 

I recall from my earlier years, the Vietnam war, in which it actually began to make sense, in a Twilight Zone of logic, that “We had to destroy the village (of Ben Tre) in order to save it.” 

My many Republican friends for years have been making appropriate claim for greater personal responsibility on the part of our citizenry, only to be seduced by the subtle politics of economic self-interest, which rendered their idealism into a gridlock that sets the rest of us up as easy prey to the autocrat and the fascist.

I also remember almost 40 years ago watching in horror the American preacher, the Rev “Jim” Jones in 1979 leading over 900 his Peoples Temple followers to their mass murder-suicide in Guyana. 

So the ascendancy of our president-elect Donald Trump, has led us through this past year 2016 to a despair of fear and almost demonic fascination, in which even within himself there seems to be no center holding anything together. Strangely that only adds to his charisma.  (History has given us many such examples.)

What has bothered and perhaps embarrassed me most is how the “Christian/religious” population of our land has so easily been able to overlook this man’s obvious immoralities in favor of some vaguely higher “trust” in him. The patina of even our primary moralists can be embarrassingly thin. “Yes, but of course, we really didn’t have a better choice.”

So many feel a foreboding of something that seems to have crept into every corner of our lives.

The Holidays

I wrote two months ago about the weight of our 4-month “holiday season.”  This past year especially, I noticed for so many, they ‘just didn’t work.’ By Christmas many were already worn out. The birth of the Christ Child, one of who’s names is Emmanuel (“God with us”) - seemed to fall particularly flat this time around. It wasn’t able to do what it was supposed to do - to lift the human spirit toward a more glorious vision and experience of a fullness of personal and community life.

And for many, this New Year’s Eve seemed a time when “nothing happened.” The sun did shine here on New Years Day - that helped, after days of cold and gloom. These next days and weeks and months may help us discern if that was indeed a ‘sign.’ Maybe we’re still willing to keep looking. Yet I see many who simply can’t anymore.

An Anatomy of Hope

I will continue to write on this. For the past six months or so I’ve been looking for words and visions to guide myself and those to whom I speak.  

And in the very darkness itself I’m beginning to see some trustworthy ‘light’

I’ll share this in my next writing.  In brief I’ve been looking in two specific directions;

1)  A new form and awareness of community, neighborhood, watching in more active care for each other, and with a greater discourse of courtesy across our fences.

2)  A willingness to travel more “into the darkness” - for it’s said that if one wants to look for gold, it will be found most often in the deep dark places. Far into the second half of my life, I’m most at home in this area - both as a psychotherapist and as a priest. 

I feel a sense to apologize for the length and distress of this preface to my larger essay. Yet I feel it has been necessary, since 1) it’s true, and 2) hope always is strongest when it arises from darkness. Neither would we fully trust ourselves to a pilot who has only flown in peaceful skies.

And yes, I did wait until I could see some specific forms of hope and triumph before documenting the darkness as I have. That to me is both a courtesy and an ethical responsibility to not increase despair. So I hope to remain faithful for you in working to connect the dots.

Pay Attention

Comments (3)

  • Taking action

    I greatly look forward to your next post. For me the sense of great danger to our society has become an accepted fact. When folks recognize and accept there is an intruder in your house the next step is what to do about it. that difficult decision has resulted in growth that I suspect is driving me and others to a new level of wholeness. Resistance has been accepted and the potential consequences also accepted. See you in DC on the 21st?

    — Simmer, 1/2/2017
  • Grandmother, Mother, Wife, Writer, librarian, administrative assistant

    However, Bill, I am reminded of how Christ warned us about darkness and folks who liked the darkness.
    Christ is the light of the world. I know, Bill, that friends of mine, too are deeply troubled; however, because I studied Revelations, recently, I cannot refrain from thanking God for the victory...for when it’s the darkest, it seems; the victory is right around the corner.

    I have to make peace in my heart; follow peace, spread peace in what I do starting at home in myself. Joyce Meyers, in one of her latest CD’s talked about going to Europe and meeting with the uppercrust folks in a between ministers of the Episcopal church and the Roman Catholics (who have disagreed for 500 years on important issues) she said; however in the end it, they finally agreed to talk about what they had in common and it was their common belief in prayer (It works.) and feeding the poor...We’re down to do this for them and you do it for me.... So you know, Bill, I’ve had faith in Mary’s request for us to pray for peace on the rosary. There is a fairly new book out by Annie Kirkwood (published in 2012?) We really can be more hopeful....I’m following the yellow brick road as Christians. I can’t wait to see the lessons Trump will learn, because of so much focus on the almighty dollar. I will see you in church sometime or singing. How the wonderful music of Christmas fed my soul

    — Judith Lee Fisher, 1/2/2017
  • Thank You

    I came across this website for the first time, today and have now read several extremely interesting and affirming articles from your archives.
    One would think initially, this latest post of yours was full of doom and gloom. However, as someone who has spent years in loneliness and despair, I found it strangely uplifting.
    Thank You

    — Sandra, 1/6/2017

Add a Comment

will be kept private

Bill McDonald
Fenton, Michigan

FREE Monthly Newsletter

Whether you are a client or not, you can always benefit from some free monthly words of wisdom:
Your e-mail address: