Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Keeping Hope Alive

Everything is plundered, betrayed, sold,
Death's great black wing scrapes the air,
Misery gnaws to the bone.
Why then do we not despair?

                               -- Anna Akhmatova

     Why then, indeed? Right now I'm facing into the abyss of my brother's possibly fatal illness. It's part of a Perfect Storm which also threatens the loss of his job and foreclosure on his house. Even if he eventually makes it out of the hospital, he might not have a home to come home to. And all this is just the tip of the iceberg! Here I am, half a continent away, struggling to do whatever I can to help, but I feel like I'm trying to siphon an ocean of trouble with a flimsy straw. Lying in bed sleepless again last night, staring at the ceiling, it seemed to me his situation was hopeless, and that I was helpless to change that. Finally, I did manage to drift off to sleep; and when I awoke this morning I realized there's yet one more thing I can do; one more reason not to give up hope. I'd looked into the gaping maw of the abyss, but something inside me still cried "Nevertheless!"

                     THE PASSWORD

"Nevertheless" is what I meant to say
                           when the worst came down,
after the Scud Missile of pain
                      struck its target zero in your soul.
"Nevertheless"--a defiant quip
just as the firing squad raises its guns.
It's that storm-battered tree
                                 far above the timberline,
the grin on the face of the homeless outcast,
the salmon's leap against the thundering falls.

"Nevertheless" is the cry I meant to praise
          no matter how many haters curse you out,
                  how many hammers bruise your bones.
It's a death row reprieve at the final hour,
the worm that turns, the impossible comeback,
                                  the incurable healed.
"Nevertheless" befuddles logic, hornswoggles fate.
It's the heroic password I meant to teach you.
            The Spirit's anthem.
                                   Destiny sealed.


     One of the hardest lessons to learn is that no matter how dire the circumstances, how daunting the odds, my ultimate power doesn't depend on any outer vicissitudes. The source of my true power to transcend, and therefore of my unquenchable hope, resides within me. The human spirit is indomitable!

                     RALLYING CRY

Begin now, begin in the teeth of the worst loss
you've suffered, begin to praise. Begin now, begin
anew, no matter what. Take the first, hard step
and then take another, and still another, until
the Spirit chimes within your bones, indomitable.

Start over, from the bitterest taste of ashes
burning your tongue. Start over, though clearly
everything you've hoped, prayed, yearned for,
lies crushed. Start over, grope without a clue,
buoyed by what disdains surrender, indomitable.

Keep growing, when nothing left seems alive,
not even your heart. Keep growing, break free
from that old, petrified shell, the dead past
clogged by phantoms and shadows. Keep growing--
beyond whoever you dreamed you were, indomitable.

Love again, despite the grief gutting your soul.
Quarry it out, rage after rage, tear after tear.
Love again, love unflinchingly, till you reach
a place where love consumes your cruellest fear.
Love again, and you will rise again, indomitable.


     I don't know if my brother's going to make it. I don't know how much I can do for him, how much is even humanly possible. But I do know now that, nevertheless, I will never stop trying. Am I not my brother's keeper? Aren't we all?

For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, I was naked and you clothed me, I was sick and you visited me, I was in prison and you came to me.

                                 -- Jesus  (Matt. 25:36)

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