Hope is the sister of Despair.

Author: Graham Norman | Date: 24 April, 2022 | Category: Arts Blog Uncategorized | Comments: 0

A distinctive characteristic of being human is that we experience life through words, words that induce feelings. It is such a common experience that we often fail to notice it, yet our sense of meaning in life relies on these feelings; it is what separates us from robots; it is how we know God.

When you read ’ Hope is the sister of despair’ you will experience a tiny bit of those feelings simply through seeing the words on the page. Words not only generate feelings, though, they describe them and give them sense and context. Emily Dickinson does this exquisitely in her poem,

“Hope” is the thing with feathers –

That perches in the soul –

And sings the tune without the words –

And never stops – at all –

And sweetest – in the Gale – is heard –

And sore must be the storm –

That could abash the little Bird

That kept so many warm –

I’ve heard it in the chillest land –

And on the strangest Sea –

Yet – never – in Extremity,

It asked a crumb – of me.

We live in times of imminent and present catastrophe of such enormity that the feeling of hope, that ‘tune without words’,  must surely be drowned out by the cacophony of despair.

Not so. Shrill and deafening are the dark crowds of crows yet still the soft chatter of sparrows lifts our hearts.

Emily Dickinson writes of despair in her poem –

Despair’s advantage is achieved

By suffering—Despair—

To be assisted of Reverse

One must Reverse have bore—

The Worthiness of Suffering like

The Worthiness of Death

Is ascertained by tasting—

As can no other Mouth

Of Savors—make us conscious—

As did ourselves partake—

Affliction feels impalpable

Until Ourselves are struck—

In the Garden of Gethsemane Jesus felt despair in the face of his coming death

“My soul is very sorrowful, even to death” Matthew 26:38

“My soul is overwhelmed with sorrow to the point of death,” Mark 14:34

“And being in anguish, he prayed more earnestly, and his sweat was like drops of blood falling to the ground.” Luke 22:44

Feathered hope was there too, hidden but still chirruping in the olive trees.

“I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.” John 16.33



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