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Still Hopeful

By Jim Hannah

Jeremian 31: 31-34

Psalm 51

In the 1986 book ‘Selected Poems II’, Margaret Atwood writes, “the facts of this world, seen clearly are seen through tears; why tell me then there is something wrong with my eyes?” Or as many climate activists say, “If you’re not worried, you’re not paying attention.”

Canadian author and activist Maude Barlow is the founding member of the Council of Canadians, a citizens advocacy organization. She is also co-founder of the Blue Planet project which works for people’s rights to water. Her latest book, ‘Still Hopeful’, came out last year and is her response to so many people asking her how she remains hopeful in such difficult, political, social, and environmental times.

She openly acknowledges her anxiety about the state of the world but says it is vitally important to distinguish between despair and grief. Despair is a dead end but grief allows us to open to the losses and potential losses and still stay grounded in our lives and in our world. This first song, which I wrote last year, is my song of grief. This is titled ‘Holding On.’

Song – Holding On

Our dear world, is coming apart at the seams,

With fear-filled people, stealing away all our dreams.

Our planet is aching, humanity lost,

With so little sense of the depth of the cost.

I’m holding on… and I’ve nothing to say…

I’m holding on… till the end of another day…

Just holding on… and I won’t fall apart…

I’m holding on…that’s the way of the heart…

I’m holding on… tell me there’s hope for us all…

I’m holding on… and I don’t want to fall…

Our children and grandchildren paying the price.

With greedy people, stealing away every slice.

Our hearts are all breaking, with so much to lose,

And so little sense of the way we must choose.

I’m holding on…

Jim Hannah 2023

Holding on to hope in such difficult times requires that we face the challenges squarely. Barlow writes, “the swiftness of the change, its scale and inevitability, binds us into one, broken hearts trapped together under a warming atmosphere, political disfunction and social upheaval. Grief is the cost of being alive.” One thing I know for certain is that heads start wars, not hearts. Heads defile the planet, not hearts. Heads cause racism, sexism, ageism, and homophobia, not hearts.

The Prophet Jeremiah, who lived over 2500 years ago understood that heads destroy, but hearts can heal. The covenant he spoke about was that when our hearts guide our actions love and compassion become. Here we are 2500 years later still not able to grasp the importance of being heart centered rather than head centered.

Barlow writes that our grief can lead to action. She says, “We are needed, that is all we can know… Ours is not the task of fixing the entire world all at once, but of stretching out to mend the parts of the world that are within our reach. Any small calm thing one soul can do to help another soul, to assist come portion of this poor suffering world, will help immensely.” This is leading with the heart. Chris Giffen opens this notion for me beautifully in his song ‘I Heard God’s Voice.’

Song – I Heard God’s Voice

I heard God’s voice in your voice.

When you spoke after the silence there was peace.

I was drawn and held and opened in the worlds that you had spoken,

I am broken now but known in your embrace.

I saw God’s eyes in your eyes.

When you turned to look within me there was life.

I was born and loved and cradled, in your sight once more created,

I am broken now but known in your embrace.

If you listen we might hear the voice of truth,

And we might touch the heart of love,

And we might find the trace of beauty in our lives.

And we’ll know that we can stand upon this ground

And trust a depth of love surrounds even this brokenness we’ve found.

I felt God’s hands in my hands,

When I knelt to touch the earth I knew her strength.

I was still and close and grounded in this world that she had founded

I am broken now but known in this embrace.

I found God’s life in my life.

When I rose to meet the sunrise there was hope.

I was spellbound in the shyness of the morning’s utter silence.

I was broken now, but known in this embrace.

I knew God’s heart in your heart.

When you wept and shared your sadness there was trust.

I was anchored calm and centered in the river you had entered.

I am broken now but known in your embrace.

I heard God’s voice in my voice.

When I spoke and broke the silence there was faith.

I was deep and full and open through the wisdom I had spoken,

I am broken now but known in this embrace.

Chris Giffen©2006

Maude Barlow continues, “When disappointment hits remember you are a child of God, loved and nurtured. Just think of the breath of air you are taking right now; it is a gift. Remember the world does not rotate around you or depend on whether you are successful. Don’t serious yourself to death.”

Monique Gray-Smith and Danielle Daniel, the two indigenous women who wrote and illustrated ‘You Hold Me Up’, did so out of their own personal grief of the residential school system. Their beautiful hearts created this book and offered it as a gift to us.

So be kind to yourself. Find a park, find some children, and remember how to play. Smile. Take a walk in the woods. Watch a flower in the sun for half an hour and let your heart ponder unrequited beauty. American scholar John Paul Lederach says, “Hope is love lived. Even in deep disappointment, you don’t stop the heartbeat of love.” This, it seems to me, is where real beauty lies in our lives and in our world. This final song is my hope filled response to the world…

Song – Showing Beauty’s Way

Beauty is in every moment, when we look with deeper eyes.

Beauty fills each heart that’s aching, makes our spirit rise.

Beauty is the way of nature, when we open up our soul.

Beauty keeps our spirit dancing, makes our being whole

…our being whole.

Love is the Cosmos marrow, heart day to day…

Love is open, never narrow,

Showing Beauty’s way…

Showing Beauty’s way .

Beauty gives us life with meaning, when we let the wonder be.

Beauty finds a grace in presence, makes our living free.

Beauty grounds our very being, when we live a different way.

Beauty brings a gentle purpose, to each love filled day

…each love filled day.

Love is the Cosmos marrow…

Jim Hannah©2023

May our hearts open and may love be lived, for in so being we just might find ourselves still hopeful.

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