Thursday, October 12, 2006

Carnival of Hope: Volume 1, Number 2

Welcome to the second edition of Carnival of Hope! I’d like to thank everyone who sent in submissions. This month we have thirteen items, eleven blog posts and two news stories: very fitting for a carnival being posted on (or just before) Friday the 13th!

I did get fewer submissions than last month, though, so I have a request: if you’re a contributor, or a visitor who likes what you see here, please post a link to CoH on your own blog. That way, we’ll get the word out.

Also, please note the upcoming deadline in advance! The next Carnival of Hope will be Friday, November 10. Send your submissions to SusanPal (at) aol (dot) com by 5 PM Pacific Time on Thursday, November 9. Since November’s the month when Americans celebrate Thanksgiving, I’m especially interested in posts about gratitude, although if another theme develops from the submissions, I’ll use that instead.

This month, we have three themes. Several people sent in posts about film, so the first section is Hope at the Movies. There were also a number of posts about hope in the midst of great turmoil, pain or crisis, a section I’m calling Hope in the Maelstrom. And, finally, we have several posts about hope as an aspect of various religious or spiritual traditions, which I’m calling Hope as a Discipline.

This edition is dedicated to my husband Gary, who loves movies. So let’s head to the showing room!

Hope at the Movies

Have you ever seen a film that supposedly depicted someone like you, or was made for someone like you, that made you wince and say, “But I’m not like that?” Nehring delights in having found that rarest of rarities, a good Christian film, in this review of Hometown Legend. This post also treats us to some refreshing thoughts about what Christian art should and shouldn’t do: namely, teach by positive example, rather than by protest. Amen!

Films are so powerful because they can take us places we’d ordinarily never go and introduce us to people we’d otherwise never meet. Amanda of Imagine Bright Futures writes a lovely review of It’s a Magical World, a film in which Croatian children literally sing hope into existence.

Sometimes films show us places where we’d never want to go, making us empathize with situations no one should have to endure. Brandon Peele talks about the brilliant, wrenching film Hotel Rwanda as a blueprint for how to move past us/them divisions in his post The Evolutionary Role of Ethnocentrism.

When I saw Hotel Rwanda, I kept wishing it were fiction. But sometimes stories we’ve labeled fiction come eerily to life. Dr. Deborah Serani discusses how the science-fiction gimmick in a recent movie may become scientific reality, allowing trauma survivors to erase painful memories, in Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind. This post raises all kinds of interesting questions. If you had access to this technology, would you use it? Are painful memories best erased, or can they be put to other uses?

Hope in the Maelstrom

At least sometimes, the difficult times we’ve endured give us tools we can pass on to people in the same situation; our own painful memories allow us to support and comfort others. In that spirit, MLR shares this very moving letter to mothers of autistic children. MLR had submitted this for the September Carnival of Hope, and to my great chagrin, I somehow forgot to put it in. (Maybe that new technique was tested on me without my consent?) MLR, thank you for letting me use it this time!

Sometimes our most painful experiences also show us what’s most important. PaedsRN of Mediblogopathy shares a harrowing but gorgeous story about how the hardest workdays can lead us to epiphanies, to moments of clarity when we realize that instead of just choosing a job, we’ve been Called to a vocation.

Too many days like that, though, would make any of us prime candidates for burnout. Nickie, preparing to follow her own calling in social work -- a field where the bad days can often outnumber the good ones -- ponders ways to avoid burnout in Socialwork struggles, or chances to hope. Nickie has a knack for finding hope, and I’m grateful to her for linking to this beautiful news article about music as medicine for schizophrenia patients. The severely mentally ill live in the center of the maelstrom all the time, and any source of hope for them is wonderful news indeed.

No one welcomes the maelstrom; but if we never get near it at all, we may begin to believe that reality is as orderly -- and as ordinary -- as our everyday lives. For a glimpse into how apparently unpleasant places can produce a wider and more mysterious view of the world, see my own Heaven and Earth, Horatio, a post about mystical stories in the ER.

Hope as a Discipline

The maelstrom, by definition, shatters our everyday lives. But sometimes the everyday disciplines we’ve developed beforehand are what help us heal. Everyone I know was deeply moved by the response of the Amish community to the recent schoolhouse shooting in Pennsylvania. If Dr. Serani describes a new-fangled, high-tech approach to recovering from trauma, the Amish approach is as old-fashioned and low-tech as a horsedrawn buggy. Read this Philadelphia Inquirer article about the Amish practice of forgiveness, and then ask yourself: Would I be able to forgive in a similar situation? I’m not at all sure I could. (Indeed, I struggle with forgiveness in far less dire circumstances.) No wonder so many of us prefer quick, high-tech fixes!

The ordinary, cyclical practices of our faith communities give us ways to reach out to others in non-painful times, too. Abu Sahajj Hakim of Wa Salaam: A Muslim American Journal describes the holy month of Ramadan as an invitation to peace, an opportunity for Muslims to build bridges to the surrounding community, in Ramadan: A Blessing for Everyone.

Sometimes we set out to practice a spiritual discipline, only to discover that things don’t go exactly as we planned. For proof that we can still learn from less-than-perfect outcomes, let’s go back to Brandon Peele (a fellow chocoholic!) who delivers a very entertaining report about his truncated Vision Quest. Among other things, he learned “why Charles Schulz drew flies circling Pig Pen.”

And, finally, it’s important to remember that not all kinds of hope are healthy. The discipline of hope calls us to recognize what kinds of hope are good for us, and what kinds may be hindering us, as Isabella Mori of Change Therapy explains in Understanding Hope.

This concludes our second edition. May all of you have a very lucky Friday the 13th and a very happy Halloween! And as we approach Thanksgiving, please keep the November Carnival of Hope in mind!

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