Let’s be hon­est: 2016 was a hor­ri­ble year. Rage, ha­tred, theft, des­per­a­tion, protest, ar­son, slan­der, vi­o­lence… our coun­try is seething. No, I wasn’t sad to see the back of 2016. Yet who knows what 2017 will bring – more of the same, per­haps?

I’m re­minded of the fa­mous dic­tum at­trib­uted to Gandhi: “Be the change you want to see in the world.” I don’t take this to mean that each in­di­vid­ual alone can change the world but rather, that so­cial and per­sonal trans­for­ma­tion are linked, and that one’s ap­proach to things does mat­ter. If you want a vi­o­lent world, be vi­o­lent – you may well find it. But if you want a peace­ful world, be peace­ful. This week I’ve been read­ing an ex­cel­lent an­thol­ogy called Life­sav­ing Po­ems. In it I found two won­der­ful po­ems that ap­peal to me deeply. What ad­vice do we cling to when ev­ery­thing seems to be too much to han­dle? Here’s some­thing:

A Poem for Some­one Who Is Jug­gling Her Life

This is a poem for some­one who is jug­gling her life. Be still some­times. Be still some­times.

It needs re­peat­ing over and over to catch her at­ten­tion over and over, be­cause some­one jug­gling her life finds it dif­fi­cult to hear.

Be still some­times. Be still some­times. Let it all fall some­times.

RoseCook (FromNotesFro­maBrightField,Cul­turedLla­maPress,2013)

True wis­dom is of­ten quiet and usu­ally very sim­ple, as this poem is. There is noth­ing loud or ag­gres­sive about it, and the “let it all fall” of the fi­nal line is a sup­pli­ca­tion, not a de­mand.

Of course, pre­tend­ing that ev­ery­thing is fine when clearly it isn’t is no way to pro­ceed – but it is the way we pro­ceed that can make all the dif­fer­ence. As Derek Ma­hon points out, beauty and hope­ful­ness are to be found in even the most mun­dane cir­cum­stances if we are pre­pared to look for them.

Ev­ery­thing Is Go­ing To Be All Right

How should I not be glad to con­tem­plate the clouds clear­ing be­yond the dormer win­dow and a high tide re­flected on the ceil­ing? There will be dy­ing, there will be dy­ing, but there is no need to go into that. The lines flow from the hand un­bid­den and the hid­den source is the watch­ful heart. The sun rises in spite of ev­ery­thing and the far cities are beau­ti­ful and bright. I lie here in a riot of sun­light watch­ing the day break and the clouds fly­ing. Ev­ery­thing is go­ing to be all right.

Derek Ma­hon (From Col­lected Po­ems, Gallery Press, 2011)

So here is my sin­cere wish for each of us for next year and be­yond:

This is how it will be

You will open your eyes in the morn­ing, and the world will run to you in its best suit.

Trees will make shadow-plays with their fin­gers. Crea­tures will call out their names.

You will open your ears to mu­sic no-one has heard be­fore, voices of those you love and those who love you,

the high­est note and the deep note which is only a stir­ring in the earth. You will open your mouth, and the things you say

will be old words in new shapes. Your sto­ries will weave all the threads into one cloth. You will open

your hand, scat­ter bread for birds, give to those who have noth­ing to give. Your hand will take hold of another hand

and walk into a new world, which is your world, and our world, and we will be be­hind you.

An­drew Rudd (From One Cloud Away From the Sky, Cheshire County Coun­cil, 2007)

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