Does a photograph help when it seems like the world is on fire? What use is a photograph when the heart is breaking? Around this time last year, I wrote a post titled “Rejoice and Mourn” which grew out of my reflection on some tragedy that had recently occurred. I can’t remember what it was, what horror had broken my heart the way this world does all too often. And it’s no surprise that another and another and another tragedy upon tragedy is on my mind and heart now. So it has been and so it is.
I recently read a poem by Hayden Carruth titled “On Being Asked to Write a Poem Against the War in Vietnam.” You should find the full text and read it. But here are the first few stanzas:
In an incisive critique of the poem titled “A Poem of Difficult Hope,” Wendell Berry reflects on the oddity of writing a poem about not writing a poem. He writes, “What is the use of saying ‘There is no use’? […] Why has this poet expended so much skill and care to tell us there is no use in doing what he has already done a number of times and is now, in fact, doing again?” Again, find the full text by Berry and read it. Eventually, Berry talks about silence as “the distinguishing characteristic of absolute despair.” The poem is a gesture of hope. And it is a hope which preserves the humanity of the poet and the reader in the face of that which dehumanizes — it is a humanizing hope.
Should we seek out beauty in this dark time? Ought we? I don’t know. I do know that a humanizing hope is a necessary, even critical, ingredient for creating a world worth living in.
May we all have the courage to hope, Chinwe