Adjourning the Counsels of Despair

Charme Robarts“And with this faith we will go out and adjourn the counsels of despair, and bring new light into the dark chambers of pessimism. We will be able to rise from fatigue and despair to the buoyancy of hope, and this will be a great America.” — Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. ( four days before he was assassinated)

I’ve felt discouraged this week as we’ve lived in the shadow of another episode of hatred, power mongering, racism, and violence. Charlottesville is one more page in the long history of human discord. On top of the tragedy of lost life has been the wrangling over words — how should we speak, what is the best way to stand and be counted, and does anything we say or do really matter?

And it’s that last question that has followed me around this week. On the one hand I know full well that yes, what I say (and do) matters. But on the other hand it is hard to resist the sense of futility.

It’s emotionally healthy to accept the negative feelings of discouragement we have from time to time. When we try to just push those feelings away it is kind of like looking out the window at the falling rain and saying “it can’t be raining!”  That makes no sense. So accept those feelings and deal with them.

So, I vented my emotions with a few people I trust not to try to fix me when I’ve lost my bearings. Talking about it helped. So, as I began to feel better and starting getting my mojo back I asked “what’s next?”

I’m not a mover and a shaker. But I decided to stay in the conversation. I have my opinions about all that has happened and I have opinions about the tenor of our conversations and the importance of limitations we must place on ourselves when we talk. So I plan to keep talking about all these things, hoping to provide more light than heat by what I say.

And while talking is important, so is doing. So as I began to “adjourn the counsels of despair” I thought about stories from history, from the Bible and other literature, and from the holy ground of my own daily existence. In all of those there are people who keep doing what they do even as the rain falls.

Many have observed that the Bible is one long story of failure and new beginnings, of loss and renewal. In this way the Bible tells the truth about life. There are always times when the good appears to be eclipsed by darkness. But eclipses hold only a small space on the cosmic stage, they do not darken the whole world at once. And so it is with the horrible things that go on in our world, the darkness is not everywhere all at once.

Without trivializing the terrible things that people say and do we can tell stories of others who do not give up on hope and love, who keep pressing onward. And if that doesn’t work they cut a new path — or they see a path emerge that others have already cleared.


Hope is like a path in the countryside. Originally, there is nothing—but as people walk this way again and again, a path appears. — Lu Xun




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