20 September 2013
I have returned a library book on time, for one of the first times in years. I am so proud of myself, even if I had to make it the main mission of my Friday in order to remember. The sun was beautiful this morning, so I’m glad I got out and took a walk through the city. People were having lunch down in Princes Street Gardens:
I’ve also been thinking about your letter from earlier this week. I think I’ve found the words to respond with — they’re just not my words:
Cause and effect assumes history marches forward, but history is not an army. It is a crab scuttling sideways, a drip of soft water wearing away stone, an earthquake breaking centuries of tension. Sometimes one person inspires a movement, or her words do decades later; sometimes a few passionate people change the world; sometimes they start a mass movement and millions do; sometimes these millions are stirred by the same outrage, or the same ideal, and change comes upon us like a change of weather. All that these transformations have in common is that they begin in the imagination, in hope. To hope is to gamble. It’s to bed on the future, on your desires, on the possibility that an open heart and uncertainty is better than gloom and safety. To hope is dangerous, and yet it is the opposite of fear, for to live is to risk.
I say all this because hope is not like a lottery ticket you can sit on the sofa and clutch, feeling lucky. I say it because hope is an ax you break down doors with in an emergency; because hope should shove you out the door, because it will take everything you have to steer the future away from endless war, from the annihilation of the earth’s treasures and the grinding down of the poor and the marginal. Hope just means another world might be possible, not promised, not guaranteed. Hope calls for action; action is impossible without hope. At the beginning of his massive 1930s treatise on hope, the German philosopher Ernst Bloch wrote, “The work of this emotion requires people who throw themselves actively into what is becoming, to which they themselves belong.” To hope is to give yourself to the future, and that commitment to the future makes the present inhabitable.
– from Hope in the Dark by Rebecca Solnit, pp. 4 – 5
You belong to poetry. You belong to the words, to the voice, to the story.
The Scots word for ‘poet’ is ‘makar’ (pronounced ‘maker’).