A few years ago bumper stickers were observed here and there reading “If you’re not outraged, you’re not paying attention.” One of the clergy on staff at St. Alban’s thought about that and decided that it was too negative, and she came up with the more positive “If you’re not hopeful, you’re not paying attention.” I think it isn’t an either/or proposition. I can relate to both. Maybe you can too. It occurs to me that the world historical figures who have led revolutions must have been both in the extreme, outraged to the core of their being about the oppression of workers and peasants, but supremely confident, hopeful if you will, that conditions could improve and that they could make it happen.
As to being outraged today, what is there? Well, let’s see. How about this, which I saw in a TV program a few weeks ago: medical researchers are discovering aluminum in human brain tissue. Apparently this has never happened before in human history. There are a couple of other metals in brain tissue, iron is one, but they have been there for thousands of years and may be beneficial, even necessary. What might the implications of aluminum be? It has long been suspected that there is a correlation to Alzheimers or Autism, both of which seem to be more prevalent than they were just a years ago. The jury is still out, of course, and might be for a long time. Jonnie Sue (my wife, for the benefit of readers who do now know me) connected these dots 25 of 30 years ago and got rid of all the aluminum cookware in our house, using only cast iron skillets and enameled saucepans. Not that we are purists; we still eat in restaurants without inspecting their kitchens, so we’ve probably only shifted the odds a little bit in our favor. We also quit using antiperspirants, with their aluminum compounds that work by being absorbed by the skin, in favor of plain old-fashioned deodorants. Lately I’ve wondered about soft drinks in aluminum cans and what the chemical reaction of the sugar on the aluminum might be. But even if this merits outrage, where should it be directed? All of the foregoing were hailed as positive goods, the greatest things since sliced bread or ice cream, not some evil conspiracy by our “enemies” to poison us all. One is reminded of those immortal words of Walt Kelly’s Pogo “We has met the enemy, and they is us.”
But what of hopefulness? In this instance I see it in the findings of medical researchers. They have moved us beyond statistical correlations to actual physical evidence – aluminum in brain tissue. This could be persuasive to many and a basis for behavioral change. Just think. Is it possible that we can hopefully look for a dramatic reduction in Alzheimers and Autism as soon as a single generation? “He who has ears to hear, let him hear.” So be outraged but hopeful too. You might change the world, or at least a corner of it.
Ron Hicks, Parish Verger, St. Alban’s Episcopal Church, Washington DC.