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Hope against hope

  • 17 March 2022
  After the last two years of Covid most of us were looking forward to a normal year. It appeared that we had made peace with Covid, restrictions were being removed and workplaces were made open. The last few weeks, however, have called normality itself into question. Unprecedented rainfall has flooded towns and cities and blocked roads, sometimes for the second time in the year. Russia has invaded Ukraine, followed by sanctions that will affect the economies both of Russia and of the wider world and making a nuclear war no longer unthinkable but conceivable.

Although Covid, the floods and the war in Ukraine are all single events which can be lived through, they also awaken deeper anxiety that the world is out of control. They ask, as our prophets have asked insistently for generations, whether we have come to an end of the road of normality and whether the tracks ahead are safe and passable. We can no longer be convinced that we are safe from nuclear war by the assurance that national leaders will act rationally and be deterred by the threat posed to their own nations. The use of nuclear weapons is no longer unthinkable. Nor can we assume that once in a hundred year floods will not recur in a few years. At the time when we were being freed from the ‘if’ attached to every plan we made during the Covid years, we have found our lives circumscribed by far bigger ‘ifs’.

This poses the question about how we are to respond in a way that is both realistic and hopeful, a way that frees us to take a full measure of the world in which we live and to be spirited and trusting in our effort to counter the threats to it.

The first step is to attend to the reality of our situation. Fear and anxiety can too easily lead us to put it out of mind and to get on with business as usual. Such denial usually ends in anxiety and paralysis, particularly when the viability of business as usual is also in question.

Taken together the events of recent years suggest that we face a crisis, a time in which the working assumptions that have guided our personal and collective lives no longer hold. If we do not change we face increasing threats to the world that we shall hand on to our children. The dimensions