Hope: That thing with feathers
“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 struggled with what to write for a final post. I’m not giving up on peace or moving away or even saying goodbye to my fellow bloggers. In fact, it is for the very reason that I have begun placing myself more centrally within the struggle for peace and justice that I must move on, with energies focused elsewhere, though “Y” will continue - forever asking questions and seeking to understand in my heart and mind the things I witness and hear with eyes and ears.
What I choose to write for my final post is hope. How can we hold onto it in a world of demagogue leaders and neo-Nazis, of ISIS and weapons of mass destruction, of polarization and pettiness? How can we guard it in this country containing land - even a city - deemed “holy” by three religions and yet empty of justice or integrity - rife with racism and corruption and ravaged by ages of insatiable bloodshed?
Hope is something so fragile and nonetheless pivotal. I find myself surrounded by far too many people who have lost it somewhere along the way, letting it slip through their fingers like glistening drops of water, leaving them longing for more of its refreshing imprint on the heart and yet abandoning it to the comfortable rationality of doubt in the face of daunting circumstances.
Many in peace or human rights still continue to work towards noble aims and to resist against the racism and greed of the day but too often do so as a people defeated and cynical. In a recent meeting with an organization whose staff have worked tirelessly and won some very well-known and visible victories in the human rights realm in Israel/Palestine, resulting in precedents and changes to policy, I observed as a consultant was shocked to hear staff members express how they felt they were not getting anywhere and nothing was changing. She mentioned one specific situation in which the Israeli government was forced to make significant policy changes regarding the ongoing occupation. However, to those in the room it was still not enough, and they did not see what to hope for as Israel accelerates even beyond occupation, towards annexation or even an apartheid system.
It made me wonder, despairingly, as I sat there, how can we hope as we bear witness to society’s catapult towards darker and darker territory?
How can we believe that the small crack we make as we chip away at the mighty wall of oppressive systems or occupation will ever bring the entire wall down?
Former US President Obama entitled a book on his spiritual and political beliefs The Audacity of Hope, a very fitting description of hope. Hope is audacious, taking a level of boldness to hold onto, to not give up on even when it seems things are closing in on all that you are risking yourself for. Hope is a bold choice to make, not naive, but rather a choice to see beyond to where one must go and give oneself fully into that aim, daring to believe that the sacrifice is well worth it.
It was such audacious hope that allowed Nelson Mandela to continue despite prison and condemnation and even family troubles and, from his experience, go on to say, “It always seems impossible until it’s done.”
It was also this audacity that Martin Luther King, Jr. challenged others with when, following many setbacks in the struggle for civil rights, he remarked, “We must accept finite disappointment, but never lose infinite hope.”
It was also an understanding of this that brought former Czech dissident Vaclav Hovel, in his book Disturbing the Peace, to write “...Hope is not prognostication. It is an orientation of the spirit, an orientation of the heart...Hope, in this deep and powerful sense, is not the same as joy that things are going well, or willingness to invest in enterprises that are obviously headed for early success, but rather an ability to work for something because it is good, not just because it stands a chance to succeed. The more unpromising the situation in which we demonstrate hope, the deeper that hope is…”
As I end my time blogging with a group of women all committed to peace and justice and all embarking in new ways of expressing this commitment, I would like to challenge us all, bloggers and readers alike, to commit to boldly hold onto hope and its source, as we work for a better and changed world, a “holier,” more just Palestine and Israel, and a more equal place for women to live out their dreams and ambitions.