This weeks guest blogger is my younger brother Thom. When I asked him to guest blog I left the topic very wide and he wrote a great piece. Want to hear more of what he has to say? You can find his other works at his own blog http://www.poetguru.com
For most of us we are taught our first lesson as soon as we come into this world. The great majority of us come through the traumatic experience of birth and are greeted immediately by a least one person, our mother, and often by many more who are there to wrap us in a blanket, keep us safe, provide us food, make sure we can breathe, and coo gently in our new ears.
From this first experience we learn the lesson of a naïve hope; that out of pain comes life into a better world, and that after trauma someone will always be there to pick us up, and for a time provide us with what we need, blanket, a hug, or something to eat. We believe this without doubt until it is proven wrong. For some of us that is merely a few moments, or hours, or days. For some it is a single-digit number of years. For some, it is our first broken heart in high school. For some it is a dark and endless night in college.
On the other end of the spectrum there is a brand of hope that is not naïve, that is built with your own hands by hardship and failure, a hope that comes from heat and pressure, and knowing, also without a doubt that, to quote Lucille Clifton, “everyday something has tried to kill me and has failed.” This is an earned hope that knows that whatever comes today it can be handled and overcome and passed through.
For a small few of us the transition from naivety to unflappable faith is little more than a handoff. Those few grow up safe, loved, trusting. They fall in love and are not betrayed. They do good work and are aptly rewarded. The results of their trials is roughly equal to the intensity of their work ethic. Their strength is earned, but from birth to death, never needs be questioned. These rare, rare few.
For most of us there is a chasm between the world of innocent hope and the hope of acquired armor. This gorge can not be jumped across, no bridge can be built, no catapult can reach. We must, in our own way climb down one jaded rocky canyon wall, where surely we will fall to our death. And when we do not die, we must climb up the razor sharp cliffs of the other side. No one, not even the ones who love us, sees what goes on inside the canyon. It is our own trial. And for it’s duration, we are simply hopeless.
There are still yet many of us for whom this chasm is impassible. Either because we were betrayed too early in life, or too often, or because we never received the tools to identify or overcome what exists between these two peak, or because the gap where we live is simply too wide. There are people in this world without hope. They know only struggle. They know only blood and hardship and pain. They live in this canyon, trapped with the other lost souls. Tell them stories of loving mothers, or of the success that can be achieved by climbing, or by how great it is on the other side. They cannot hear your stories. They have too much evidence to the contrary. They will not climb.
And should the world come visit these folks, should it ask with its cameras to show us what life is like in the space between unknowing and knowing, those without hope will happily oblige. Their world is scrub brush, worthless, without reason, violent. At any moment something could catch fire. At any moment someone could die.
Don’t talk to me about picking yourself up by your bootstraps. Anyone who could have done that has. Don’t tell me about building better housing inside the canyon. Who honestly wants to live there? And while I applaud those who climb down with the lost, who preach of a better life, and who carry folks out one at a time, it doesn’t scale.
I don’t have an answer. We can’t let our kin stay down here. Nobody is going to build a factory in death valley to employ the lost. Those of us on either cliff do little more than point and take pictures. All I know is that we need to find a way, for the naïve, to let them keep their hope as long as possible. And for the war-wise, we need to find a way to lift them to the other side.
We, up here, are safe. We can see the horizons and dream our wide dreams. But we must find a way to lift more people up from this despair. There must be a way. I know you can think of a way.
And I know you will. I have hope.
Thom Ingram is a poet, essayist, contemplative, and teacher living in Boulder, Colorado. He has an MFA in creative writing from Queens University in Charlotte, North Carolina. His poems have been published by Elysian Fields Quarterly, The Good Men Project, Random House, and several local and regional journals. His essays and other poems can be seen online at www.poetguru.com.