Friday, April 11, 2008

Dickinson and Hope

Having promised solemnly, as opposed to effervescently, yesterday to write something more hopeful today, I must immediately call in reinforcements in the form of Emily Dickinson's poem #254 (according to one counting-scheme):

"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.

It's almost always unwise to paraphrase a Dickinson poem, so I won't, but I will say that the poem makes me consider whether hope is given to most people, as part of the hardware and software package, at birth. The speaker in this poem reports having heard hope "in Extremity" --in extreme situations--but, returning to the equation of hope to bird, reports that even in such moments, when hope is arguably as important as it ever is, it doesn't ask anything in return; were it a bird, it wouldn't even ask for a crumb.

What hope has to offer to us as so many apparently intractable problems face us: well, there's the usual--things could be worse. Also, people seem at least ready to acknowledge there's a problem, Houston, with the globe's environment, Bush's catastrophic foreign policy, and race in the U.S.. The present twenty-something generation in many parts of the world seems precocious, alert, and tenacious. I feel as if I should knock on wood while saying this, but the prospect of thermo-nuclear apocalypse seems much less likely now than it did in the 1950s through the 1980s. Although Bush expanded the executive branch's power to the brink of dictatorship (arguably), there's a chance Congress might reel in the next president in this regard. For communication between peoples and fresh ways of getting and analyzing information, the Web seems to be a net-gaine (pun intended). The need to use alternative fuels (something that seemed obvious to many decades ago) seems to be close to being accepted as fact. And finally, in Tacoma, the sun is out, meaning this is our fifth try, I believe, at Spring. We'll see how it goes. The things with feathers seem pleased, and students from Hawaii are preparing for a Luau.
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