This week I want to talk about hope.
Emily Dickinson called “hope” the “Thing with Feathers” and then proceeded to conjure up an image of the little bird in my soul being abashed by a storm. Every time I think I get it, it slips away.
In 2001, I responded this way to Emily: “If Emily had your hope, what kind of thing would it be? My hope is the thing with pizza stains down its front. Maybe your hope has chocolate all over its face.” At the time, my anti-depressant was severely depressing me, so it’s a wonder I had anything positive to say at all.
There’s a lot I don’t understand about the way people think about this concept. It seems to me other people don’t use the word “hope” the way I do.
Yesterday, I got a jury summons in the mail and I squealed with delight. I get a chance to be on a jury again! Yay! I hope I don’t get rejected. But I don’t have any special hopes for what might come of the jury duty. I hope it happens, but have no sense of how it should happen.
This reminds me once again that I am fascinated by psychology, because I have one, and mine seems different from others. I lie. I don’t have one psychology. That would be too easy.
There’s so much I don’t understand about the way other people think and react. I don’t like the low pay for jury duty. I consider it a disgrace that people are expected to miss work for, what, $10 a day? But other than that, why would I want to get out of it?
But, then again, I’m reminded of some other sorts of activities I’ve been known to enjoy, like crashing cars. So I’m forced to accept that my own psychology might be an issue.
In the middle of the 1980s, I lost track of what year it was while I read all 20 volumes of Carl Gustav Jung’s “Collected Works.” At the time I thought, “Well, this is certainly extreme.” Not just the content of the books, which, for those who don’t know, are incredibly labyrinthine, but my reading of them. Some people read Joyce’s “Ulysses,” some people read Jung’s “Collected Works.” A similar impulse.
How often does this happen to you? You think back to some time when you were idly thinking about just anything, say, what color socks to wear, and then you realize how, as you were thinking that, you suddenly remembered another time before that, when you were thinking about snakes, because the socks made you think of snakes, because of their colors, naturally. And then you realize that particular time when you were thinking about snakes, you remembered one specific snake that made your mother scream? And you laughed and laughed?
I just learned there’s a word for people like me in Polish. It’s nadpobudliwość A fellow named Dabrowski came up with it and it’s been translated as oversensitivity and hyperactivity, but also as superstimulatibility. He also talked about positive disintegration, which sounds very familiar to my ears. I disintegrate regularly, but I feel pretty good about it, most of the time.
There’s a whole range of this oversensitivity, something like five different kinds, and I’m afflicted with at least four of them, and I’m not being the least bit of a hypochondriac when I say that.
It’s nice to know that there are words for the sorts of extremes I’m prone to, and as we march toward the next presidential election and a great new hope for America, I plan to keep track of my odd reactions and try to relate them as best as possible. Starting with trying to figure out what all we could mean by a great new hope for America.
I think it’s fair to say most people are not focusing much on hope for 2020, but on fear. It also seems to me that, as I talk about hope and fear, people think hopes and fears. Nouns, not verbs.
To me, I can’t have a hope. Hopes aren’t things you get from a pet store, and hang onto. I think Emily knew that and was deliberately turning hoping into a thing in order to shake people out of objectifying hoping, and get them to see it as alive and active. A verb.
My (noun) hope is that everyone starts actively doing creative hoping (verb).
Dr. Wes Browning is a one time math professor who has experienced homelessness several times. He supplied the art for the first cover of Real Change in November of 1994 and has been involved with the organization ever since. This is his weekly column, Adventures in Irony, a dry verbal romp of the absurd.
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