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Hope Is a Gritty Thing

24 December 2009 4 Comments
Patricia Smith Melton

Patricia Smith Melton

WARNING: This blog may be offensive to entrenched curmudgeons, hidebound grinches, and people who believe reality is tangible and static.

- Commentary by Peace X Peace Founder Patricia Smith Melton

Emily Dickinson said:

“Hope is the thing with feathers
That perches in the soul,
And sings the tune without the words,
And never stops at all, …”

I say:

Hope is the gritty thing with claws
That perches in the soul,
And rasps against all things
That hold us from the goal
Of love and life in gentler forms.

Guardian of the possible,
Its muddied wings unfurl,
And fly us into rarer worlds.

2009 was a year when many of us had personal conversations with our hope. We went inside, weighed the options, and recognized hope as a necessity, not an accessory. Personal hope changed from a light feathery thing to a gritty determined one—bedraggled perhaps but capable, an ally.

We lost things this year. Yet as nature abhors a vacuum, so hope enters empty spaces. It looks around, takes the measure of circumstances, adjusts itself, and re-emerges, as a tough old bird and a reclaimed lover.

And, like a lover, hope feeds off inspiration. It needs visions to invest in and make real. You are the creator of the vision. You are the visionary. You are the inspiration-maker. That’s your part of the hope-person bond.

Emily said:

Yet, never, in extremity,
[Hope] asked a crumb of me.

Well, I say we are too close to extremity to take a chance on not feeding hope. And feeding it more than crumbs!

As individuals and cultures, we need to see harmonies that arc over the shards and seemingly irreconcilable bits and pieces of our lives, histories, and conflicting narratives. As individuals and cultures, we must imagine new possibilities instead of sharpening the edges of our old wounds. We need visions of rarer worlds for ourselves and all to hope for, believe in, make real, and live in.

I have just returned from the West Bank and Israel working with an independent producer, filming women featured in the book Sixty Years, Sixty Voices: Israeli and Palestinian Women. I was the principal interviewer, photographer, and editor for this book launched a year ago. Printed in Arabic, English, and Hebrew, it carries the faces and voices of the women, their painful and triumphant experiences, and the wisdom, hope, and womanly grit that equip them to face each day.

Hope took a tumble in the year since I was last with the women. Some, especially Palestinians, feel prospects for peace between Palestine and Israel have been set back five to ten years. 2009 has included more than 1300 deaths in Gaza, an increasing divide between Hamas and Fatah, tension mounting between the Israeli government and settlers in the West Bank, suspicion growing on both sides of the wall, and a sense of trust betrayed.

It seemed to me that the learned knowledge of the people that all violence is, ultimately, violence against themselves is a primary force for moderation. But hope, scarred and determined and tenacious, is perhaps the primary force for moderation—hope in better futures, hope in healthy educated children, hope that there are people on the “other side” to talk to.

Hope is a necessity for cultures and nations, just as it is for each of us. It is also a gift that gives joy. It perches in our soul and sings when we feed it. And sometimes it unfurls its wings, flies, and leads us.

May your holidays be graced with hope!

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4 Comments to “Hope Is a Gritty Thing”
  1. Mares Hirchert says:

    I loved your quoting Emily and then rewriting it your way about hope. My three grandchildren give me hope. We sat with them on Dec 13th and made Peace Flags to send to Gaza so that the Palestinian children there who suffered so terribly last winter might know that we care about them. We want the parents of the over 300 Palestinian children that died to know that we refuse to accept Palestinian children as “collateral damage” for Israeli Security. Our hope for a better future for their children and the children on the other side of the wall and for all the children around the world is strenghtened by the resolve of over 1000 Internationals from 42 Countries to march non-violently thru Gaza to lift the blockade. Our hopes and hearts are with them.

  2. patricia smith says:

    Thank you, Mares. Can you please tell me and our readers more about the planned march through Gaza? It is a mighty vision.


  3. A paradigm shift looms, in the Anthropogenic Era, when we can’t untangle hope for world peace from Global Climate Destabilization. Human beings evolved in limited ecosystems. Instincts and anatomy which made us fit, in the Darwinian sense, are inadequate to manage an entire planet. Failures such as the Copenhagen Accord will continue until we face our design limitations.

    Like an alcoholic who can’t begin to control his addiction, humanity won’t begin to cope with the limitations inherent in our evolved design till we admit that planetary management is a challenge with which we’re not equipped to cope. Only then can we reinvent ourselves, casting out present cherished views of privacy and faith.

    Overproduction, for example, has been controlled by the Chinese at the cost of invasion of sexual privacy and forced abortions. Imagine similar privacy “invasions” that coerce people to resolve conflicts without war, and to negotiate universal per person carbon footprint allowances (instead of rich countries having rights to more per person carbon pollution) will be necessary. We’ll have real hope for peace and for sustainability only when we’re ready to admit the need for such coercion just to survive.

    Some people foresee a Singularity when everyone is more deeply integrated with our information technology. My vision for a Singularity is grim, but ultimately as transformative. We’ll need universal information technology to manage coordinated effort and our negotiations of conflict. Can we rise to the challenge of reinventing ourselves before Earth becomes uninhabitable?

  4. Mares Hirchert says:

    My friend, Yusif Barakat, was one of only 90 Internationals let in to march with the Palestiniansinside Gaza. Pres. Mubarak’s wife Suzanne got the 90 in thru the Red Crescent Org. The other 1300 Internationals were demonstrating in Cairo and outside the Erez border and many other places. The reports of the march and how the border was closed are now coming out in some of the western media. Yusif will be back around Jan 20th. In the meantime I was able to keep up with Yusif and the other 5 members of the MI Peace Team thru their blog:

    After what the Israeli Gov’t did last Dec/Jan to the people of Gaza and the squashing of the Goldstone Report by the US many Imternationals that visited in Feb-May and saw the destruction planned this march to let the Palestinians there know that the world had not forgotten them. Walling in 1.5 million people is inhumane and killing 326 Palestinian children in 22 days and accepting it as “collateral damage” is subhuman. The Jewish Peace Groups marched as well to say no to the siege of Gaza and to start talking with Hamas. The BDS movement gained strength especially when the Internationals were not let in to do a peaceful march. Americans won’t tolerate giving money to Israel for it to violate International Law and common decency.
    I don’t think the Internationals are happy with Egypt or the US which is secretly helping to build another wall beneath the ground to stop the smuggling thru the tunnels. I am surprised that PeaceXPeace did not hear of the Gaza Freedom March from the Israeli/Palestinian women that were interviewed in 60 Voices.

    Is there a technical way for me to click something to get an e-mail to let me know that there was a comment on my comment? I would have responded a lot sooner.

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