Jan 19, 2009

Signs of Hope

What was it St. Paul said? “Evidence of things unseen.” In the world of crime writing, to have “seen things” is a euphemism for despair. As a crime reporter, I see things every week which I can’t even report, things too horrible and too common: The infant child of a single mother dead, though no one did anything wrong; a young woman out of her head on something, staggering around shouting, “F***”; parents without the money to bury a boy, who was shot by police while dealing meth. “The darkness surrounds us,” wrote the poet Robert Creeley, “what can we do against it.”

But the thing is, people do do things against it. People persist. They persist in hoping things could be better and in working to solve problems they know are unsolvable. Depression would be reasonable. Despair would be rational. But people still insist on pursuing the impossible: justice, peace, protection of the innocent, and a world without violence. We’re like Ray Charles when he sang “America the Beautiful,” a blind man singing about “purple mountains” and “shining seas” he’s never seen, a black man in a racist country, belting it out, “America the beautiful,” a country he believed in, despite what he knew. We persist in hope. We believe, without evidence, because hope is its own evidence.

It’s completely, beautifully insane, but I see people daily demonstrating an unshakable belief that things can be better. Cops show up to work. Crisis counselors answer the phones. Paramedics give life support. People vote, have babies, get married, and pray to God. Every day, people have this fantastic faith, which they live out by doing completely normal things. It’s madness, this persistence of hope. It’s human. And, for me, it’s the evidence of things I haven’t seen.

From the Symposium of hope @ Comment