1 January 2021
It is 5:30 AM. My house is quiet, my love gently snoring next to me. Outside I can see the first little bit of sun chasing away the darkness of night. Birds are happily chirping away while a gentle breeze rustles through the trees. It’s a new day, a new year, a new beginning.
Thanks to our government, 99% of South Africans will meet the new year without a hangover, due to the ban on alcohol sales as well as the 9PM curfew. Yesterday my best friend got married. It was a small, yet stunning, intimate affair. Just a pity we had to cut it short due to curfew.
I can do nothing but lie there and soak up the peace that surrounds me. I have all I need, and all I need is what I have…
As I scroll through social media posts and instant messages from loved ones and friends, one message comes through as clearly as the birds singing their morning song outside my window: Hope – that is what we need to hold on to for this coming year. I haven’t seen one “new year’s resolution” declaration. Covid-19 has united us all in hope. Hope that this year will be better. Hope that we will make it to the other side of this pandemic stronger, closer, wiser. Hope for a future, for a brighter tomorrow.
As can be expected, my mind wanders to the year that was, and the one that has just begun. I think about the things I want to do and get and accomplish. I think about where I’d like to be a year from now. But, if 2020 taught me anything, it is the fact that no matter how we try or plan, we are not in control. Yes, we may need to plan and have structure around our lives. Yes, we need to have a (more-or-less) definite idea of what we want to accomplish. Ultimately though, that is all that it is: our ideas and plans are but futile attempts at control. We are not in control. All we can do is hope.
Hope against all hope that we will make the right choices. Hope that our plans are in line with our path and where we need to go and where we need to end.
Two literary masterpieces, so vastly different, yet equally powerful, are to me the yin and yang of hope.
To the ones that harbor hope for 2020, as I do, I give you this part of An Essay on Man by Alexander Pope. The full text can be found here
Heav’n from all creatures hides the book of fate,
All but the page prescrib’d, their present state:
From brutes what men, from men what spirits know:
Or who could suffer being here below?
The lamb thy riot dooms to bleed today,
Had he thy reason, would he skip and play?
Pleas’d to the last, he crops the flow’ry food,
And licks the hand just rais’d to shed his blood.
Oh blindness to the future! kindly giv’n,
That each may fill the circle mark’d by Heav’n:
Who sees with equal eye, as God of all,
A hero perish, or a sparrow fall,
Atoms or systems into ruin hurl’d,
And now a bubble burst, and now a world.
Hope humbly then; with trembling pinions soar;
Wait the great teacher Death; and God adore!
What future bliss, he gives not thee to know,
But gives that hope to be thy blessing now.
Hope springs eternal in the human breast:
Man never is, but always to be blest:
The soul, uneasy and confin’d from home,
Rests and expatiates in a life to come.
Lo! the poor Indian, whose untutor’d mind
Sees God in clouds, or hears him in the wind;
His soul, proud science never taught to stray
Far as the solar walk, or milky way;
Yet simple nature to his hope has giv’n,
Behind the cloud-topt hill, an humbler heav’n;
Some safer world in depth of woods embrac’d,
Some happier island in the wat’ry waste,
Where slaves once more their native land behold,
No fiends torment, no Christians thirst for gold.
To be, contents his natural desire,
He asks no angel’s wing, no seraph’s fire;
But thinks, admitted to that equal sky,
His faithful dog shall bear him company.
In memory of the ones who lost all hope in 2020 and surrendered to the darkness, I give you a small piece of Canto III of Dante’s Inferno. For the full text of The Divine Comedy, you can go here
Through me the way is to the city dolent; Through me the way is to eternal dole; Through me the way among the people lost. Justice incited my sublime Creator; Created me divine Omnipotence, The highest Wisdom and the primal Love. Before me there were no created things, Only eterne, and I eternal last. All hope abandon, ye who enter in!" These words in sombre colour I beheld Written upon the summit of a gate; Whence I: "Their sense is, Master, hard to me!" And he to me, as one experienced: "Here all suspicion needs must be abandoned, All cowardice must needs be here extinct. We to the place have come, where I have told thee Thou shalt behold the people dolorous Who have foregone the good of intellect."
If, by chance, it all feels like too much in 2021. Please, I beg of you, please do not give in to the darkness. Speak to someone, compliment a stranger, send me a message! I know at times it could be difficult, but believe me, there always is hope. Do not give up.
As we go into this year, may your hope spring loud and clear each day. May each sunrise be the proof that you need that the darkness can never remain and that this too shall pass. May you find something in every day, no matter how small, that gives you the reason to go on, go further, go beyond your wildest dreams. May no single person extinguish the flame that burns inside of you. May you see the good in the world and those around you. May you always find hope and may that hope become your driving force
Wishing you a 2021 packed with peace and joy and love and above all, hope eternal