#896 Figure out what you hope for

Hope figurine

Photo by Leanne Stewart, via morgueFile

Hope has been on my mind lately and not just because I am on a daily search for reasons to be hopeful. Friends are facing challenges that make hope seem like a shiny bauble on a Christmas tree—pretty but perhaps not relevant. And that doesn’t take into account all the horrors being perpetrated around the globe. The seduction of despair is real, but it is not useful. So instead of sliding into gloom, I am turning to Barbara Kingsolver.

When I read Barbara Kingsolver’s Animal Dreams, I was stopped short by this sentence and copied it into my file of memorable quotes:

The very least you can do in your life is to figure out what you hope for. The most you can do is live inside that hope, running down its hallways, touching the walls on both sides.

She used that quote at the start of her 2008 commencement address at Duke University. That speech is one of the best arguments for a hope-filled life I have ever come across. It is worth reading for gems like these:

This could be your key to a new order: you don’t need so much stuff to fill your life, when you have people in it. You don’t need jet fuel to get food from a farmer’s market. You could invent a new kind of Success that includes children’s poetry, butterfly migrations, butterfly kisses, the Grand Canyon, eternity. If somebody says “Your money or your life,” you could say: Life. And mean it. You’ll see things collapse in your time, the big houses, the empires of glass. The new green things that sprout up through the wreck — – those will be yours.

The arc of history is longer than human vision. It bends. We abolished slavery, we granted universal suffrage. We have done hard things before. And every time it took a terrible fight between people who could not imagine changing the rules, and those who said, “We already did. We have made the world new.” The hardest part will be to convince yourself of the possibilities, and hang on. If you run out of hope at the end of the day, to rise in the morning and put it on again with your shoes. Hope is the only reason you won’t give in, burn what’s left of the ship and go down with it.

This blog is populated with those who give us reason to believe hope can triumph over despair. Hope is not the smooth path. It is a road with so many barriers and boulders we are tempted to detour or turn back. But detours are always rubble strewn and turning back means facing the hurdles we already navigated.

That is why I came to the conclusion the only sane path through life is to make a habit of hope. Thank you, Barbara Kingsolver, for expressing it so eloquently.



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nechakotess - December 29, 2013

this is the moment of truth I think, for the moment we give up hope – we lose. I think we all come to that moment (and maybe more than once – when the overwhelming power of despair seductively calls, when hope seems flimsy and frivolous and powerless. I know when I face that fork in the road I hear Gandhi saying “It does not matter what you do, it matters that you do it.” And that has been my lifelong mantra. I also think hope is a bit like the pea in the fairy tale of the princess and the pea. No matter how many mattresses the mother of the prince piled on the bed, the true heart could still feel that tiny, niggling and uncomfortable pea that prevented her from sleeping. Hope must be like that – never letting us be comfortable enough to give up, no matter how small it gets or how much crap is piled on it. Hope prevails when all else fails (and by that all else I mean ideology, theory, strategy,,,) and once again Cathryn, thank you for taking down a few levels of mattresses so we can all feel the seeds of hope.

    Cathryn Wellner - December 29, 2013

    Oh, Tess, once again your wisdom and your skill with words have brought tears to my eyes. You recall for me the many long conversations we have had over the years, the mix of laughter, sorrow and head scratching. When I read your poems in What Passes for Normal in Dreams, I am always struck by your courage and all you have achieved. You are a beacon for me.

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