When Hope Gets Cancelled

Dear friends,

I am writing on Tuesday in this Thanksgiving week. We have just sent out an e-notice of the cancellation of the mayor’s March for Hope. It was a shock to my system to see that cancellation. It felt almost like a decision to walk away from hope.

The mayor describes the decision as being based on safety concerns and safety is certainly important. But it felt like a huge loss or perhaps a real commentary on the state of the world. We most certainly are in need of hope, but the divisions among and between us are very real. What we need, I am coming to believe, is not even easily captured by the language of reconciliation…at least absent a significant amount of truth telling.

I am, and I think many of you may be very much in process in response to the election. Whether it is a process of shock or grief we know that both require time to move through. Yet we, all of us, yearn for things we can do, commitments we can make that point toward hope. The march was a concrete action we could take. I am sorry the march will not take place. But the yearning for hope remains.

For many of us, it may well be harder to get to gratitude this week than we ever imagined. The only period that is even remotely comparable, in my experience, are the weeks following the September 11 attacks. This is different, but the intensity of feeling is reminiscent.

I offer the following poem, written just after 9/11, as you prepare for Thanksgiving. I offer it because it names the task and still points toward hope.

Poem for 9/11
-Adam Zagajewsky

Try to praise the mutilated world.
Remember June’s long days,
And wild strawberries, drops of wine, the dew.
The nettles that methodically overgrow
The abandoned homesteads of exiles.
You must praise the mutilated world.
You watched the stylish yachts and ships;
One of them had a long trip ahead of it,
While salty oblivion awaited others.
You’ve seen the refugees heading nowhere,
You’ve heard the executioners sing joyfully.
You should praise the mutilated world.
Remember the moments we were together
In a white room and the curtain fluttered.
Return in thought to the concert where music flared.
You gathered acorns in the park in autumn
And leaves eddied over the earth’s scars.
Praise the mutilated world
And the grey feather a thrush lost,
And the gentle light that stays and vanishes
And returns.

Happy Thanksgiving.