Horror and Hope – can they exist together?

Jewish Fall Holy Days,  Rabbi Rami Shapiro

“For me, making peace with God is about remembering that God isn’t about salvation or damnation, reward or punishment. God is about reality for God is reality. I make peace with God by realizing that life is wild, unpredictable, often horrifying, and yet always hopeful.I remind myself to not expect things to be other than they are, and to be thankful for all that they are. With this act of radical acceptance comes radical forgiveness, and, for me, this is what Yom Kippur is all about.”   http://rabbirami.blogspot.com/

“Often horrifying, and yet always hopeful.” These words of Rabbi Rami cause discomfort tonight. Can horror and hope co-exist?  Don’t we have to separate them…some moments being aware only of the horror, other moments only of the hope? Can we accept them as parts of the same reality, not the antitheses of each other?

This indeed requires radical acceptance. And also radical courage, I feel. I am reminded of Viktor Frankl standing inside the fence of a concentration camp urging his fellow inmates to look up at the sky and recognize the beauty in that moment. Beauty! There indeed horror and hope co-existed. They had to. The horror was too real, the hope too necessary.  Perhaps hope is easier to recognize when we are mired in the darkness.  Kurtz’s last words in Joseph Conrad’s Heart of Darkness  were “The horror, the horror.”  Many graduate essays have been written attempting to explain their meaning. Today, I am wondering if in dying Kurtz was faced with Beauty, Hope, God, and suddenly the contrast of the person he had become to what he was facing became utterly and excrutiatingly clear to him for the first time.

When I think about death, and life after death, I think that perhaps in the moment of our dying, an eternity in that one moment, we are faced like Kurtz with the stark truth of our lives.  We feel the impact of all the pain we have caused, in contrast to the Absolute Goodness, Absolute Beauty, Absolute Love that we are exposed to as we die. Our eternity will be that moment, and in that moment we will become one with the Source of all. The pain of that union will be greatest for those who have caused the greatest pain and whose nature/spirit has grown furthest away from the Source.  There would be justice in that.  But also hope. Because our spirit, refined in the fire of that union, that confrontation, could then pass on into the One Spirit, into the Source.

Or not!

About Mona

I am a wife and mother, a once-Catholic now UCC Christian, with a degree in Theology, a Masters in Religious Education, 27 years of theology teaching experience -- mainly High School, some College. I am now working as a Hospital Chaplain and feeling humbled and privileged every day. I love my family and I love to write; writing helps keep me sane. Published writing: • From Hurt To Healing, Publish America 2004, ebook on Amazon, 2011; •"Forgive and Forget," America Magazine, September 16, 2002; •"From Victim to Victimizer," Human Development Magazine, Summer 2005; • It's Just Not Fair, Introducing The Fairly-Good Mother, ebook at Amazon, 2011; • Traces of Hope: Surviving Grief and Loss, March 2015, St. Johann Press http://www.amazon.com/Traces-Hope-Surviving-Grief-Loss/dp/1937943275
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