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.
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)