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On hope

I am going to indulge in my thoughts. (3 min read) For a second day I have woken up early, before the birds, and before the light, because my head is full of so many different things. I cannot express how turbulent the past few days have been, and enlightening. I think. When I first made my website I put the few words to describe myself in the corner – and I did the same some years back when I joined twitter – a few words to explain. What about the essence?  

Essence can be so lovely – like the taste of the first English strawberry of the season, picked from the garden. I say English not to be patriotic, but because these Elsanta strawberries are different from California strawberries and until I had come to know them, I couldn’t imagine that kind of fruit. Let me describe: they are small and full, their red thin fruit-skin is taught and much thinner than a grape skin, thinner than a peach skin, so thin it is barely there, and the seeds on the outside are merely hints of little dots, not crunchy deterrents to the fruit. The inside is consistent throughout, not like some strawberries where you bite in and there is an empty space in the middle, or a sort of stalk inside, or even a different texture, these Elsanta variety of strawberries are just perfect and consistently juicy all the way through. Imagine the perfect peach, but without any hint of stringiness, and even a lighter texture, and the sweetness of the fruit is mixed with a hint of fragrant zing that stays on the pallet. -You get the idea that I adore my red fruits. We have a garden full of wild strawberries, and yes, they are all coming into ripeness after that lovely, aptly named, strawberry moon we just had.

Interestingly, when I looked up what is an iconic English fruit, I found that it actually is a mid-season Dutch variety and strawberries (specific types that included Elsanta) were the first Polish fruit to be given commercial protection under EU law. Hmm, so maybe it isn’t just an English fruit. good thing I looked it up. I still love them and consider these beautiful strawberries an essential part of my culture.

This week there were two exchanges that have stuck with me. One was my reply to a tweet:

Screen Shot 2016-06-27 at 05.09.30

I cannot think of a time when angry shouting fixed anything. Please, please no.

The second was a comment made by a fellow academic, recalling a saying of her father’s:

Hope is merely disappointment deferred

I felt many things when I read that – my first thought was NO we must have hope! and then I felt upset, not quite angry, but somehow restrained or confined, and then I recognised the feeling. I had felt it once before in a different setting.

Over a decade ago I was observing a friend and colleague teach, and as he sat at the piano, he asked the class: What is musical expression? Standing in the back of the room I smiled, thinking, ‘Ah, what a great question to make them really think and articulate…’ and while I was in my happy reverie, he finished the sentence with a matter-of-fact smack-down, saying, ‘It is nothing more than articulation. That’s all.’ 

I felt angry. I was incensed. I had performed music with such emotion – pouring my whole being into it and was this expression being boiled down to some principle of articulation? How could this be mechanics or physics alone? It was an insult. -But was it? The more I thought about it (over years) the more I came to understand that there are different ways to describe something, and there is seldom one definitive, inclusive, stand-alone answer – especially where perception is concerned. Yes there are ways to describe an experience, and finding a commonality can be very valuable – especially if it can be something distilled that we can agree on without personal issues or preferences weighing in – maybe this could be a fact, a principle, I’m not sure, but I remember the process of feeling angry and then of understanding how actually that statement distilling music to be articulation was actually something useful for me.

The same is true of the earlier statement about hope. Let me rephrase:

Hope can be (merely) disappointment deferred IF it remains only a feeling or an idea.

When hope is made manifest and channeled into a positive movement, then hope moves from being a feeling, to a thought, to action, and eventually to being a way of life. That’s what an optimist is. We live hope. We do not look at the world as it is. That is far too grim, and there is so much great strength all around us.

The other day I rested my head on my husband’s chest and paused – I said, ‘I can hear your heart.’ For me that was another of those ‘a-ha’ moments. There is another saying – the spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak. Man, we are strong. I don’t know how, but tired, weary, sad, that heart keeps pumping. It is pretty unbelievably strong, and I am pleased to remind myself that when I feel downtrodden by events, people, the weather, that I am stronger than I think.

Am I an optimist? yes, and I live in hope.

Featured image CC-BY by Sancho McCann

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