A fragile hope
“If in the dusk of the twilight, dimmed be the region afar
Will not the deepening darkness, brighten the glimmering star.
Then when the night is upon us, why should the heart sink away,
When the dark midnight is over, watch for the break of day.
Whispering hope, O how welcome thy voice
making my heart in its sorrow rejoice.”
(Alice Hawthorne, 1868)
Hope often triumphs in those very situations that threaten its existence. Against the darkened backdrop a faint ray of light trickles through the skies to lighten our way. This time of great uncertainty opens up pathways previously unknown. We all have time now – in a way that never seemed possible before. We have no choice but to draw breath, anchor at the isle for a while, reboot our coordinates and trust in the stars above to guide us home.
Over the past few weeks, we’ve had to press the pause button and become accustomed to life without its frenzied motion. Not sure whether I’m slightly losing it, but my garden has suddenly become a place of wonder for me. I’m even checking the latest buds to bloom and surveying the movement of the robin before he lands on the ledge for his evening feed. I think we’ve bonded! It’s amazing how the small, miniscule, seemingly insignificant things have now taken on a new meaning. This time away from the routine can open our pores to a whole new world.
I’m very aware that there are a lot of people out there confined to the boundaries of their own home and wishing all could be as it was. It’s not easy for them or for us. We all have to keep our safe distance whilst they, in their isolation, try to make sense of it all. I’m missing the chats with my Mam over a cuppa, the reassuring few words that float both ways, the normality of it all. Over the last week, I’ve asked a few friends to send on reflections or poems that speak to them at this time, to help us navigate uncharted waters with a little hope in our hearts. Together, through the torrent, we can carry each other to the other side.
* It’s good to step outside from time to time and breathe in the clear air. We can become overwhelmed by the news briefings. Once a day is enough. It can consume you. It’s shocking too how negative and vitriolic social media can be. This can never become our new norm. Real warriors do not need keyboards! Those who have spread fun and laughter have lifted all our spirits. Human goodness too has been unleashed into the world in a way that inspires us all to think differently. There is new energy palpable now, a shift perhaps back to where we are meant to be. Let’s never tire of it!
“Life is so precious; we never know the day or the hour that it will be whipped away. So, fill your days with as much happiness as you can muster. Stay away from the drains. We all know them. They’re the people who pull the good out of everything. The ones who suck the beauty from things and change colour to black and white. Leave them fester. I think they secretly enjoy being grim. Instead, gravitate towards the light and laughter – like a moth to a flame remembering not to get your pretty wings burnt. You’ll like it better there I promise. Farewell and thank you. I am taking a bow. Until we meet again, may all that is good and decent be yours.”
(Emma Hannigan, ‘Letters to my daughters’)
“It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done better. The credit belongs to the person who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory or defeat.”
(Theodore Roosevelt, April 23rd, 1910, Sorbonne, Paris)
* It’s good to create your own ‘still zone’, somewhere you can find your own peace regardless of what is happening around you. Music can help, silence too but nature often tunes us to this new frequency better than anything. Times of trial can open our eyes to what really matters. We begin to see more clearly.
“Whenever problems seem to get the better of me, whenever I feel them closing in on me, I go to a quiet place that lies somewhere in my soul. I do not reason, analyse or think. Those will come later. I simply go.
From this place of silence, I garner strength and inspiration to stand firm in the face of fire, to be calm in the midst of thunder.
When I emerge, the world has not changed, but I have. And in changing, a whole new world is born.”
“In a world vibrating with action
We have come here to be still.
In a world of tight schedules and deadlines
We have come to absorb the present.
In a world of limits and frustrations
We have come to the brink of eternity.
At the still point of our churning world
We wait to meet the unchanging God and know his peace.”
* This is a good time to reconfigure your bearings in life before you ‘kick on’ to your true course, your ‘higher purpose’. Remember, the purpose of life is a life of purpose. Have your beautiful things but do not be imprisoned by them. Own them but do not let them own you. Give the main aim of your life over to far more important pursuits such as discovery of your highest potential, giving of yourself to others and making a difference by living for something more important than yourself.
“Just imagine that the purpose of life is your happiness only – then life becomes a cruel and senseless thing. You have to embrace the wisdom of humanity. Your intellect and your heart tell you that the meaning of life is to serve the force that sent you into the world.
Then life becomes a joy.”
“For what it’s worth, it is never too late, or in my case, too early to be whatever you want to be. There’s no time limit. Stop whenever you want. You can change or stay the same, there are no rules to this thing. We can make the best or the worst of it. I hope you make the best of it. And I hope you see things that startle you. I hope you feel things you never felt before. I hope you meet people with a different point of view. I hope you live a life you’re proud of. If you find that you’re not, I hope you have the courage to start all over again.”
(Eric Roth ‘The Curious Case of Benjamin Button’)
“I have walked that long road to freedom. I have tried not to falter; I have made mistakes along the way. But I have discovered the secret that after climbing a great hill, one only finds that there are many more hills to climb. I have taken a moment here to rest, to steal a view of the glorious vista that surrounds me, to look back on the distance I have come. But I can rest only for a moment, for with freedom comes responsibilities, and I dare not linger; for my long walk has not yet ended.”
* Where there is peace and love, there is God also. Regardless of where you are on your own spiritual journey, there will be times in your life when you sense that you are not alone, that someone, somewhere is carrying you. There is a life force at play in the world beyond what the mind alone can fully comprehend. There are many rivers to the sea. The wider ocean awaits those who dare take the voyage.
“The man whispered, ‘God, speak to me.’ And a meadowlark sang. But, the man did not hear. So the man yelled, ‘God speak to me’ and the thunder rolled across the sky. But, the man did not listen. The man looked around and said, ‘God let me see you’ and a star shined brightly. But, the man did not see. And the man shouted, ‘God show me a miracle’ and a life was born but the Man did not notice. So the man cried out in despair, ‘Touch me God’, and let me know you’re here” whereupon God reached down and touch the man.
But the man brushed the butterfly away and walked on.”
“You are always calling us to follow you into the future,
inviting us to new ventures, new challenges, new ways to care,
new ways to touch the hearts of all.
When we are fearful of the unknown, give us courage.
When we worry that we are not up to the task, remind us that you would not call us
if you did not believe in us.
When we get tired, or feel disappointed with the way things are going, remind us that
you can bring change and hope out of the most difficult situations.”
(The lona Community)
* Hope will endure even when all around seems bleak. The cross can yield to the fragile hope of the empty tomb. Václav Havel, the former president of the Czech Republic, said that hope is not dependant on some particular view of the world, but is something we carry within us. Hope, he maintains, is not the same as optimism nor the conviction that all will turn out well, but the certainty that something makes sense regardless of how it turns out. It is an ability to work for something because it is good. He says hope ‘gives us the strength to live continually to try new things even in conditions that seem hopeless.’
May you see God’s light on the path ahead,
When the road is dark,
May you always hear, even in the hour of sorrow,
The gentle singing of the lark,
When times are hard, may hardness never turn your heart to stone,
May you always remember, when the shadows fall,
You do not walk alone.
May God give you…
For every storm, a rainbow,
For every tear, a smile,
For every care, a promise,
And a blessing in each trial,
For every problem life sends,
A faithful friend to share,
For every sigh, a sweet song,
And an answer for each prayer.
(Old Irish Blessing)
I hope these reflections offer a little calm amid the storm and that we’ll get to share the path with you someday soon. Thanks to all who shared their favourites. For now, let’s stay safe and stay at home secure in the knowledge that this too shall pass.
We are delighted that our friends and colleagues from Journeying, in the UK, through Iain Tweedale, will also be joining us live for our Taizé Vigil, on Friday 10th April at 8pm. You can connect via our Waterford Camino Tours Facebook page or Journeying’s Facebook page