Hiking here in the northwest means we most always get into some challenging, steep uphill sections of any really satisfying and worthwhile climb. We often need to pause for rest and water and snack breaks, but even as we feel so tired and sore, there is something that motivates and drives us to keep going. There are also opportunities for memorable vistas along the way where we enjoy the exquisite wonder of flora and fauna, and we are often able to look back through a break in the trees to realize how far we have come.
I’ve been reflecting on uphill climbs this week because they remind me of the current state of affairs in our country and world, and in many ways, in our personal lives. Elections and various impasses in Congress leave me feeling fatigued, my mental and spiritual bones wondering whether the way forward (and up?) is ever likely. And the slog of getting through Covid makes me just want my hike to get to the summit as soon as possible as most of the fun of the adventure has grown tiresome.
In 1975 the original Executive Secretary of the Friends Committee on National Legislation, E. Raymond Wilson, wrote a history of the organization since its inception in 1943 entitled Uphill for Peace. In the preface he asked why we should continue to work for peace and justice when the “cynicism about the character and operation of government and government officials is so widespread.” He answered “because the future of democracy rests upon the participation of informed and concerned citizens.” And he added “The price of liberty is eternal vigilance…A world dominated by military, economic and political power easily forgets fairness and compassion for the disadvantaged and dispossessed at home and abroad.” Those words written 46 years ago also aptly apply today.
And yes, the current cultural and planetary uphill climb for peace and justice is laborious and daunting. We may not even have a clear sense of what the summit may look like. We may anxiously sense we have lost our bearings for now. We have critical but uncertain choices about which trails we need to follow. Some in our hiking party are clearly taking dangerous and unsustainable paths that have endangered and failed in the past, and their current misdirection actually threatens us all. Like it or not, we inhabit an interconnected and interdependent reality among ourselves and all of creation, and what endangers some endangers us all. Among Covid’s more profound lessons, we all were clearly reminded that our common fate depends on a commitment to the welfare and common good of us all.
But I also like to think that despite the dramatic, historical shadows of the horrible violence of war, racism and genocide perpetrated by the U.S., we are nevertheless discovering trail signs that could well open more possibilities for yet undiscovered or unfulfilled paths that will lead to a better vision for a beloved community. In the past couple of decades we have successfully followed a new path for acceptance of gender equality and acceptance, for example. We’re on the right track of finally realizing full women’s rights and equality. There are encouraging signs the country is tired of war. And even as we flounder and flail, we are reckoning with the truth that racism and climate neglect must be addressed. We are learning to accept and establish cultural and personal clarity and practices that could redirect us toward integrity and wholeness for ourselves and our planet. I am guided by a Jewish proverb that says, “God gives you the task.You are not asked to succeed, but you are asked that you not lay the task aside.” Climbing uphill may often feel like the task before us. May we find the stamina, imagination, actions and love sufficient to the task.