Monday, July 28, 2014
The warrior virtue.
I got home from work today and just wanted to cry. It was nothing particularly to do with work and nothing particularly to do with home. I just felt tired from the inside out, and it suddenly caught up with me. Everything I had to do felt too difficult and too awful, and the few things I’m looking forward to over the next little while all seemed so wrapped up in other things that terrify me that it felt/feels impossible to separate the yay from the unyay in order to really enjoy them.
While the physical reality of this hit with a fresh intensity, the vibe wasn’t exactly new. I’ll admit it: a certain sense of cynicism has crept into my soul lately. I didn’t notice it happening. I didn’t intentionally stamp out the flames of optimism. Suddenly I just realised: I’m not such a hopeful person anymore. I’m more skeptical. I’m more doubtful. I have less of a sense of anticipation about the future. And every time I watch the news, I regret it.
I used to be Pollyanna, but these days I feel more like Daria. Without the funny bits.
As it turned out, my teaching appointment was cancelled for the afternoon, and I was able to collapse onto my couch instead, shutting my mind to the million other things I’m supposed to be doing this week. I put my iPod on shuffle, and Mumford & Sons’ Thistle and Weeds came on. It’s not my favourite of their songs, so I hadn’t given it as much attention as some of the others that caught at me from the very first listen. Today, though, the words made me stop:
Plant your hope with good seeds / Don't cover yourself with thistle and weeds
I was arrested by this image of hope as a garden, a garden that requires cultivation, energy, pruning, and watering. I thought of how cynicism and snark can spring up like thistles and weeds, and how once the weeds take over a patch, it’s so much harder for the good seeds to grow there.
Then came the chorus:
But I will hold on / I will hold on hope.
Hope is such a small word. A slight word. A simple word. I equated it with Pollyanna before, and sometimes I suspect that is how we think of it: as the sunshiny stuff of children’s stories from last century. But there’s a reason the image of the anchor has come to represent hope: hope is the weight that can keep the soul from being dragged away by the rips and currents that yank it off course. Hope strains under its own strength. Hope pulls, hope catches, hope preserves, and hope keeps alive.
Hope saves us from shipwreck. Hope is fierce. It has guts, and it has muscles. Hope is the stuff of warriors.
Last week, I got a text from a friend I rarely see or talk to, but who is one of those steadfast, true, and excellent people in my life. She reminded me that the last time we’d caught up was for New Year’s Eve. We danced and sweated our way into 2014 in my tiny Housie living room, and we talked about Woody Guthrie’s New Year’s resolutions from 1943. The one that stood out to her was the call to action, Wake Up And Fight. The one that leapt up and smacked me on the nose was this: Keep the Hoping Machine Running.
I loved it so much that I painted it on the front of my moleskine planner. That way, I’d see it daily all through 2014. But after my friend’s text, I saw those words anew, with a jolt. My hope machine hasn’t been running at full horsepower. In fact, I think I’ve let the fuel tank run low. My little hope machine has been coughing by on mere fumes. Time for some jumper cables, I think.
Considering hope as this thing that can be fed or starved, fuelled or run dry, may seem oddly contradictory. After all, we can’t just magic our way into joy or click our red-shoed heels and find ourselves there. So is hope fake?
I can’t believe that it is. Jesus notched its importance up there right alongside faith and love. And through humanity’s long history of messes and flaws, it has been the thing telling people to walk on. So it makes sense that sometimes we have to tell our hope itself to hope on, too. The Psalmist literally told his soul to keep hoping. And Dory did the same thing when she sang that magical phrase, “Just keep swimming. Just keep swimming.”
If hope is a garden, we must weed it. If hope is an anchor, we must cling to it. If hope is a machine, we must keep it running. Just keep swimming.