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In Seeming Chaos, Hope

I gave a lot of thought today about hope and its lack of it. I do not confuse hope with positivity and positive mindset. Instead, I understand hope as grounded in reality. Emily Dickinson described it as “the thing with feathers,” suggesting we cannot fully describe it. Its ineffeable nature creates a metaphoric meaning for each of us. Without dreams and hope, Langston Hughes cautions “life is a broken-winged bird/that cannot fly.” With hope and dreams of previous enslaved generations, Maya Angelou repeats the title of her poem “I Rise” as a prayer and refrain against hopelessness.

Too often, people want to pigeon-hole others in binary and dichotomous ways e.g. conservative or progressive. It appears easier and less ambiguous if we can label someone, somehow providing a sense of stability about who this or that person is. What we mis-understand is “and” means something. It acknowledges how complex each human is. We are not usually one thing or the other. Instead, we are mingling of things, experiences informing how we live, and the context within which we live. I want to conserve things e.g. Nature and, at the same time, progress e.g. equity regardless of gender, race, sexual orientation, etc. Neither is premised on political or, in our case, reality TV, sloganeering.

Paulo Freire and bell hooks write about hope, unconditional love, and dialogue in educating children, youth, and adults. I think the critical theory is incorrect. What they propose is critical pedagogy/andragogy where I ground dialogue in listening with lovingkindness to those with different lived-experiences. In mindful, non-judgemental listening, I seek to open up space where the Other shares their reality and wisdom. In acknowledgeing the humanity of the Other and greeting them in dignified silence, I might offer the fragile hope so needed in today’s world. Imagine a world where we greeted one another with dignity, rather than making up slick political mottos and creating disparaging nicknames that assault others?

I wrote this poem after a long, hard day. I thumbed through some right-brain scribbles and this was the result.

Even in chaos, hope–

Faith springing forth,

Beloved Other sharing wisdom:

What do we hold in common.

Communal rhythm,

Symphonic voices arising–

Loving harmonies;

Binding and healing.

Listening,

Giving dignity–

Acknowledging shared ground.

Holding each Other gently,

Unsure together–

Breaking bread

Being safe in this space.

This was the first secular song I heard in church. It was the late 1960’s. Today, I think we do need mountains we have bulldozed, meadows we have paved over, and water we have contaminated. Having said this, we need love and hope equal measure to make those things happen.

Gallery Hop – I, Too, Sing America: The Harlem Renaissance at 100 Mural Series

via Gallery Hop – I, Too, Sing America: The Harlem Renaissance at 100 Mural Series

This post is a bit longer than ones I usually press, but it brought back memories of teaching.

I taught Language Arts and, as a result, poetry. I was drawn to Langston Hughes who was critical in the Harlem Renaissance, although he was not originally from New York. He was from Joplin, Missouri, found his way to Harlem, and added a wonderful voice through poetry to the Renaissance.

One of the murals in the post is of Richard Pryor who would have begun his career in the latter stages of Langston Hughes’ life. I did not think of it that way until today as I looked at the post and realized there was an overlap in their careers.

Like Hughes, Pryor was not born in New York, but moved there from Illinois. I watched Pryor on the Ed Sullivan Show in the late 1960’s, enjoying his humour and social critique.

I leave you with a Langston Hughes poem: Dreams. I shared this one with my students each year, reminding them to have dreams and chase those dreams.

Hold fast to dreams
For if dreams die
Life is a broken-winged bird
That cannot fly.
Hold fast to dreams
For when dreams go
Life is a barren field
Frozen with snow.

 

Hope

This Emily Dickinson poem reminds me of Langston HughesDreams. There are  direct and indirect metaphors to birds and a sense hope and dreams feed to lighten one’s spirit.

Being mindful of one’s dreams can give a person hope and something to look forward to. It is not to say we lose ourselves in our dreams, living in a fantasy. Our dreams nourish a hope essential to sustain our spirit and who we are becoming as a person.

Dreams call to us, even in challenging times. We share them with others and they bring hope, not to one person, but to a larger collective. Dreams and hope exist as questions, which we can reflect on alone and together.

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.
Here is the Langston Hughes poem.

Hold fast to dreams
For if dreams die
Life is a broken-winged bird
That cannot fly.
Hold fast to dreams
For when dreams go
Life is a barren field
Frozen with snow.

Dreams

It was a long day. I feel tired and I was not as close to 100% as I thought. Despite that, I had an interesting conversation and, on the way home, I wondered if many children’s dreams have exploded? Do children dream like I did when I was a child? Do some children while others are afraid or unable to dream? I turned those questions over and they reminded me of Langston Hughes’ wonderful poetry. What is my role in holding their dreams with them?

Hold fast to dreams
For if dreams die
Life is a broken-winged bird
That cannot fly.
Hold fast to dreams
For when dreams go
Life is a barren field
Frozen with snow.
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