I recently asked a friend, in all seriousness: “Do you ever wonder if our parents felt this hopeless about everything when they were our age?”
We both knew what I was referring to when I said “everything”: police and state brutality against Black and Indigenous people, the climate crisis, hunger, homelessness and impending evictions, mass incarceration, rampant anti-Semitism and white nationalism and Islamophobia, colonization and imperialism, homophobia and transphobia and gender violence, a global pandemic!
This isn’t a complete list, and it doesn’t make me feel hopeful. If I’m being honest (and I usually am), it makes me feel utterly hopeless. It doesn’t help that I’m observing most of this through a newsfeed that supplies me with a constant stream of terror and suffering, or that an ongoing pandemic is causing me to be online more than in community with others.
You might expect me say here: “Turn off the phone! Close Twitter! Don’t check Instagram! You’ll feel better.” And while I do think boundaries and limits and care for our psyche are vital, I’m wary of the idea that, in the presence of suffering, we should look away to feel better. That the solution to collective pain is for the individual to check out. That it is the responsibility of the individual to feel better rather than the responsibility of the community to take better care of each other.
My challenge to myself lately has been to embody a spirit of paying attention in a “both/and” way. To pay attention to suffering and lament oppression and mourn injustice. And also to pay attention to evidence of joy, resilience, and movement towards justice and to practice radical imagination of a world where everyone flourishes. The danger of “either/or” is too great: without hope, we will only know suffering; without lament, we will leave those who suffer behind in cheap pursuit of inauthentic “hope.”
My faith teaches that God is in all things, including suffering, and that resurrection and renewal are always possible. In this overwhelming time, I want to see God in spaces of both desolation and hope, and I want to remember that I, too, can reside in this liminal space.
~Olivia DiGiorno, Class of 2021, BA in Political Science and Theology and Religious Studies