Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Hold Out Hope: An Old Pep Talk

There, there child. Come now. Every day can't be brass bands and beef steaks and roses.

Give me your hand. Let me hold it and trace with my fingers its rivers and roads and rivulets and cul-de-sacs.

Hold out hope, like a gift, an offering. Give it to me, or to others. Don't hold it so close. Just put it where it can be reached.

Tell me what you're going through, what's going on in that head of yours.

Lift up your head and let me see your eyes.

The mysteries don't scare me anymore. Someone once said that all silence is the recognition of a mystery, but I don't believe that anymore and I'm not sure I ever did. I think silence is many things (a sort of reading room or academy of mysteries, maybe), and many of them fine, but I don't think it's a recognition of a mystery. That's much too general. You might recognize a mystery in the loudest room or the most crowded street or in the face of a passing stranger or the furtive smile of someone you love.

When you do recognize a mystery, though --when you really recognize a mystery-- I believe you're compelled to address it, to try to speak its name and describe its features, to give it a face so that you will recognize and remember it until the end of your days. Because it's no small thing, the recognition of a mystery, even though it happens all the time and we may not even be properly aware of it. Still, I believe such recognition calls for some banging of pots and pans, some fireworks, some exultant noise.

Yes is not, of course, an obligation. It is a choice and the embrace of a privilege, and not everyone has even one honest yes in them. Some people are damaged and can manage only the sidestep, the Hollywood kiss, and the awkward embrace. Such people are only too unhappy, however unconsciously, to persist in the tragic human error of mistaking halfhearted attention and respiration and mere movement for some form of sufficient affirmation or commitment, and to mistake this false form of sufficient affirmation and commitment for genuine attention, engagement, and affection.

Joy is unmistakable, and cannot be faked. God knows, though, the world --and people--try to simulate it and manufacture it. More and more this ersatz version is what the world tries to sell us.

There, there child. Come now. Lift up your head and let me see your eyes. You aren't one of these people. You were born with a a capacity for real joy and a yes plumbed snugly behind your ribs. If your yes sometimes feels heavy and silent and still in your chest that is only because it is still looking for a bell tower in the world. Wait. Be patient. You'll one day again find a bright and worthy place to hang your heaviness, and when it starts to sway --and the clapper of your joy begins to swing in rhythm with it-- your bell will at last be heard, even if initially by only one other. And it will be answered, it will be joined.

Have you ever heard a bell ringing in a little valley town? It's a lovely sound, but there is something mournful about it as well. But two bells, or all the bells in the valley ringing together at once? That is something else entirely. That is the music the human heart was designed to make. That is the definition of a joyful noise.

Wait for that.


  1. This one makes me think of a nice sunny beach for some reason.

  2. I mean like a letter found on a beach or something...

  3. Thank you, Brad for speaking the name and describing the features of the mysteries you encounter.

    you've no idea how much your pep talks can mean.


  4. So beautiful. So perfect. Thank you.

  5. You are a word sculptor. Beautiful.

  6. You're writing is exquisite. I shared it on my blog today.

    I hope you are healing and feeling better.

  7. Thanks a million, Moira. Wonderful blog. And thanks to the rest of you as well.

  8. This story reminds me of everybody that I love --or loves me-- telling me when I'm sad, or full of sorrow, that in the time to come, it will be alright. I love this way of expressing how things will turn out. It keeps me happy when I'm sad, hopeful when I'm stuck, and grateful for everything I have. I love it. I love it all.

  9. Once again, there is no better praise than praise from storyigrrl.

  10. Storyigrrl says it best--"I love it. I love it all."

  11. I have heard that bell ringing in a valley town ring many times and i have read your story for the first of many times.It is absolutely brilliant and heartwrenching just like the bell.

  12. Lift up your head and let me see your eyes.