Hope is the thing with feathers
That perches in the soul,
And sings the tune–without the words,
And never stops at all,
And sweetest in the gale is heard;
And sore must be the storm
That could abash the little bird
That kept so many warm.
I’ve heard it in the chillest land,
And on the strangest sea;
Yet, never, in extremity,
It asked a crumb of me.
Today, Christmas Day 2013, in the face of both personal and global difficulty, I am wanting to think about, talk about, and replenish my own store of hope.
And yes, I know that can sound corny and cliche. I don’t care, to be perfectly blunt about it all. I believe this is a powerful and necessary thing, this hope the poet writes of. I believe it is no longer a thing of luxury or related in any way to ambition; it’s a signpost of spiritual courage and it is the only thing left to do in so much overwhelming craziness all around us.
I don’t believe in a lot of the things Christians do, but I like their Jesus and I love the power of hope they write of so eloquently. Hope is the thing with feathers. Hope is an act of courage. We hope despite how empty we feel, like we feed the animals and go to work on our darkest days. Hope will, along with beauty, save the world.
Or not, but it was still the right thing to do.
I am not in any way speaking down to depressed people, because too well I know what depression does. But for the rest of us – we just simply cannot give up hope. I know a few still believe technology will save us, or that things “have” to get better, or that if we’re all about to expire, well that’s the way it’s “supposed” to be.But I beg to differ. Courage – real, raw, souldeep courage – is not popular or sexy, and it may well not save anything. It takes enormous courage to maintain hope, work at it and use it as a spiritual discipline in the face of knowing the truth and the facts about our dire global predicament(not to mention the massive Sodom and Gomorrah the world has turned into).
So, here is what I propose for the year ahead, 2014.
As always, start with kindness. (Yes, I am always harping on this too). ..and move into using hope as a deep offering and discipline. DO NOT SUCCUMB TO FALSE,NARCISSISTIC POSITIVISM ON THE ONE HAND , OR DESPAIR ON THE OTHER. Hope is a subtler thing than these extremes, it is nuanced and powerful and may even carry us beyond the gates of death. Start without expectation, without self-focus, but stay in hope…..and then – all important – act like you believe it is possible. What would you do, how would you behave and live if the constant threat of our extermination was not hanging above you? I remember when it was imminent/probable but not inescapable; I lived in passionate promise, I worked on the inner plane and the outer for a better world. I had not yet reached the inertia point, that horrible moment when you are dead before you are physically dead. I don’t believe in the Christian Satan,not literally anyway – but if there was one, surely this deadening of human passion and potential would be his signature on this earth.
So, while a large part of my egoic self is in despair, both personally and globally, I will not give in to it. The shape and quality of my hoping is radically, necessarily different from that of my youth, or even ten years ago when I still felt that things were generally going to be ok. It’s a fierce hope, a non-personal hope, maybe even a transpersonal one. It’s the same grit that drives us to work out when we are 60, to start a new business that is more geared to helping others than making a zilllion dollars, or that moves us to go back to school even if we know what we are studying will never make us rich.
It’s defiance, it’s unshakable – and it’s beautiful.
Walk this path with me. Fight for what you believe in even when it’s the hardest – stand your ground, stand in your truth,as the saying goes. Keep believing that we humans CAN behave as stewards of the earth and not destroyers – believe that we can learn from and cherish our differences, believe that your life can matter and make a difference.
Keep the faith – walk in hope, no matter how hard it may be(and I know, believe me, it can be damn hard).
And maybe – just maybe – we will change the world.