Wednesday, November 23, 2011

All Shall Be Well

“All shall be well, and all shall be well and all manner of thing shall be well.” 

                                                                                               ~ Julian of Norwich

I tend toward optimism. Sure, you can look around and see any number of causes for alarm and dismay. The world – or I should say the humans who inhabit it – display a grand mixture of good and bad, weak and strong, noble and depraved. Even so, and with such a mixed bag, humanity is on an upward track. There is a higher consciousness and a greater awareness at work in society. I can’t say that my view was always so bright. Growing up as a Southern Baptist, the Puritan heritage combined with the twentieth century Evangelical movement combined to create a climate of judgmental attitudes and a bleak worldview. Modern society was often seen as depraved and "going to hell in a hand basket."

One morning when I was a young college student at Samford University, I was at breakfast in the school cafeteria. I was in a kind of funk, wondering what this world may be coming to. My friend and upperclassman, Bruce Wilson, happened to be sitting at the same table. I made some comment about how it seemed like dark times we were living in. Bruce responded with something like, “Oh man, this is the best time I can think of to be alive!”  He then started naming all of the great things about living in the world today.

Somewhere along the way I made a shift to a much brighter world view, sloughing off the myopic dread of Puritans and Evangelicals that so many of us Baptists in the South had inherited. I can’t say that the shift came that very day, but that conversation with Bruce certainly got me thinking, and I’ve remembered that moment to this day.

The quote above from Julian of Norwich reflects an assuredness that everything will be alright. Hope and optimism were not the order of the day during Lady Julian’s time (1342 – 1416). There was an onslaught of death from the bubonic plague, economic depression and devastation from wars.  Julian somehow saw creation as emanating from and being upheld by the love of God. Her words of hope became a beacon for 20th century poet, T.S. Eliot, who incorporated Julian’s all shall be well quote in “Little Gidding” in his Four Quartets.  Elliot himself wrestled with how hope and faith can be appropriated given the many doubts, struggles and angst of the modern age.

 Rabbi Zalman Shachter-Shalomi says “There is more good than evil in the world but not by much.” I like that way of seeing the world. It is offers hope that good will prevail while being realistic that there is also a lot of bad. To me, that statement encourages us to keep looking for the best, affirm the good that we see while lending our efforts to increase the good.  Things may not always be to our own particular liking, but there is still a lot of good out there.

And then there is that quote from E.B. White that I have used before, "I arise each morning torn between a desire to improve the world and a desire to enjoy the world. This makes it hard to plan the day." There is so much to enjoy in the world. Whatever our present struggle, I believe we can take heart that all shall be well, and all shall be well and all manner of thing shall be well.


1 comment:

  1. I'm an optimist by nature too. There will always be scary stuff going on, but I like to believe that the good will prevail.
    This was a great post.


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