Outdoor Advent Day 7

In the foreground a broken branch, with a fork in it, is covered in moss which is a vivid spring green. Out of focus in the background are more broken branches, fallen leaves, patches of green, trees and a bright horizon.

It’s a question of how we regard our situations […] how we look and see where we are, and how we choose, if we can, when we are seeing undeceivedly, not to despair and, at the same time, how best to act. Hope is exactly that, that’s all it is, a matter of how we deal with the negative acts towards human beings by other human beings in the world, remembering that they and we are all human, that nothing human is alien to us, the foul and the fair, and that most important of all we’re here for a mere blink of the eyes, that’s all.

– page 188, Autumn by Ali Smith

Hope is much needed at the moment. Wherever you are in this world there are problems, divisions, catastrophes, never mind the general grind of simply keeping going in a pandemic. When just existing is exhausting where do we find the necessary energy to keep hope kindled inside us?

I don’t really have a proper answer. I know that I often find myself reading the news and wondering what the point of it all is. Thinking that perhaps I would be better off if I didn’t care, didn’t worry about other people, didn’t look too closely at anything any more. And then I open a book and read a paragraph like the one above, take a walk and stumble over the infinite beauty of moss fronds growing on a branch, get a text message from a friend which makes me laugh; suddenly I find that little flame deep inside is burning that little bit brighter.

I cannot for the life of me remember what the proper quote is, never mind who said it, but that doesn’t matter so much as what is being said. Which is that if the nihilists are right and life really is meaningless then how we choose to live our lives is the most important thing there is.

If there is no outside meaning being imposed upon us by morality or a deity then we get to make the meaning for ourselves. Which might seem a bit of a big task if you keep thinking in the sort of deity/morality terms that we’ve had drummed into us thanks to the society we inhabit* but it doesn’t have to be. It can be small and personal and involve nothing more than trying to make sure you leave everywhere you go a little better than you found it.

And by that I mean the “bit better” can be saying thank you to the person who served you, or that you compliment someone’s scarf or shoes or bag, or making sure you leave a good review online for the small business person who made the lovely thing you just bought or the book that just made your day that much brighter. It can be as simple as offering a few words of encouragement or kindness to someone on Twitter/ Facebook/your social media of choice who seems to be having a rough time. It can be feeding the local birds or, if funds are available, dropping a pound or two a month to a charity whose cause is closest to your heart.

Hope starts small, so we can start small too.


*I am talking here about Western society because I’m talking from my personal perspective. I do not believe that the Western experience is universal, I’m shorthanding it because I think most of the people who read my blog are also from the West.

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