‘Standing at the Gates of Hope.’ A lovely, evocative, inviting title, borrowed from Maria Popova’s Brain Pickings in 2014.
I found it whilst exploring hope as a key theme in nurturing our inner being for the road ahead. As I did, I realised that my understanding and appreciation of hope is so shallow. It’s almost too familiar. “I hope you had a nice day” “I hope it won’t rain” “I hope things will change…”
But the hope we could be talking about, could be cultivating, is far deeper. It can provide an anchor for our souls. Perhaps it’s also one of the most significant things we can offer others in troubled or uncertain times. But we can only really offer what we have ourselves.
Victoria Safford wrote beautifully about being “planted at the gates of Hope” in Paul Rogat Loeb’s ‘The impossible will take a little while’ . I want to study her whole essay – ‘The Small Work in the Great Work’ – further.
And as I’ve listened to others who are exploring what hope means I know this is just the start of a journey. There are many layers to both peel off and to lay down.
So rather than meander around just now, I offer you an excerpt from Victoria Safford’s essay, now published as a poem, to set your soul juices working too:
Our mission is to plant ourselves at the gates of Hope—
Not the prudent gates of Optimism,
Which are somewhat narrower.
Not the stalwart, boring gates of Common Sense;
Nor the strident gates of Self-Righteousness,
Which creak on shrill and angry hinges
(People cannot hear us there; they cannot pass through)
Nor the cheerful, flimsy garden gate of
“Everything is gonna’ be all right.”
But a different, sometimes lonely place,
The place of truth-telling,
About your own soul first of all and its condition.
The place of resistance and defiance,
The piece of ground from which you see the world
Both as it is and as it could be
As it will be;
The place from which you glimpse not only struggle,
But the joy of the struggle.
And we stand there, beckoning and calling,
Telling people what we are seeing
Asking people what they see.
Do give yourselves time to chew on these words of insight, of invitation. Or listen to Parker Palmer’s beautiful rendition on the On Being podcast.
Here’s to growing good, grounded hope, the kind that we and our world needs right now.