This week I am living into the reality of an unrealized dream. Our doctoral cohort was supposed to be gathering in Cape Town, South Africa for the second of three international “advances” on Leadership and Global Perspectives. This trip, like a great number of things this year, was postponed due to Covid-19. The decision not to travel this year was made several months ago. But it was still sad to turn the page to this week on the calendar and to see the dark lines scratched through the words, “Cape Town.”
The plan is to try again next year. We will substitute the Hong Kong advance for a second attempt at Cape Town. I am hopeful, but also realistic. It is very possible that an international trip will not be feasible even in a year’s time. We are in a very real state of “Not Knowing” as the global impact of Covid-19, along with several other factors- “x, y, and z”- may require another alteration of the plan.
This is the state of our lives right now. Perhaps this is how it has always been and we are just now more aware. So much is out of our hands. And yet time marches on. We work. We study and learn. We plant and reap. We pray. We put one foot in front of the next and strive to keep going, perhaps with one eye on the path at our feet and the other on the horizon.
Our Jewish friends have a saying that happens at the end of the Passover Seder meal and at Yom Kippur: “Next year in Jerusalem.” Literally, the words are a statement of intention to gather together as a body in the holy city in one year’s time. It is also a phrase that serves as a reminder of the exile and the hope of returning to a rebuilt Jerusalem. It binds the community by uniting them in their shared experience and it also gives a direction in which to set their gaze as they pray for day of peace and reconciliation.
However, more often than not in the following year, Jews around the world find themselves not together in Jerusalem, but scattered still, blooming where they are planted and keeping the faith from a distance. And yet their hearts’ desire continues to be “Next year in Jerusalem.” They may never be and there is certainly the reality that one never knows what the coming year might bring, but the words function as a call to a life of hopeful expectation.
This is the life is described by Renner and D’Souza who write about the blessings we can find in the space of the unknown. They write, “Not Knowing is an active process, a choice to open up to new experiences and learning. It is a way of living and working with complexity, ambiguity and paradox, tolerating uncertainty and the uncomfortable feelings that we notice at the edge. This view … reframes Not Knowing as a positive space of potential and opportunity, where we can access new, emergent knowledge.”
We cannot know all that this next year will hold, but we have a choice. We can choose to be consumed by sadness, disappointment, frustration, and anger, all because of things way beyond our control. Or we can try a better way. My hope and prayer for this week begins and ends like this: “Next year in Cape Town.” I will accept where we are today. I will face each new day’s needs, problems, and opportunities with faith, hope, and courage. And I will look forward to the possibility of reunion and renewal one day in another part of the world. Most days that is all we can do. For this day, it will have to do.
 Diana Renner and Steven D’Souza, “Not Knowing: The Art Turning Uncertainty into Opportunity,” (New York: LID Publishing, 2016,) 137.