November’s a funny old month. It feels like the beginning of winter and the end of the year. Which can both be positive or negative things, depending on which way your year has shaken out and how you view the seasons.
With the 100th anniversary of the end of the First World War arriving early in the month, a line from the Wilfred Owen poem ‘Anthem for Doomed Youth’ seemed apposite.
I’ve always found the poem heart-breakingly powerful. A guttural cry against the tragic inhumanity of war. An inhumanity that – in our humanity – we seem incapable of resolving. A paradox illustrated, of course, by the fact that this ‘war to end all wars’ didn’t do the job.
But, the very fact that we continue to anticipate that war will end forever one day is also illustrative of that inescapable human trait: hope.
Or do I mean optimism? One Instagram follower admired the optimism of HOPE/SPRINGS/ETERNAL. Are ‘hope’ and ‘optimism’ the same? There are certainly similarities. The proverb cited in my words derives from the idea that human nature compels us to ‘always find fresh cause for optimism’ (Oxford Dictionary of English, 2010). A few pages later, the OED states that optimism is ‘hopefulness and confidence about the future or the success of something.’ It also highlights Leibniz’s philosophical viewpoint ‘that this world is the best of all possible worlds’ and ‘good must ultimately prevail over evil in the universe.’ Leibniz was born mid-17th century and died in early 18th. His philosophy was ridiculed by many, particularly Voltaire. If you’re interested in that, you’ll find a piece I wrote about Voltaire and the Brexit Referendum 2016 here.
All this seemed to lead into the idea of individuals being works in progress which, to me, suggested that we start from a point of potential… I had intended ON A BLANK CANVAS but I was short of Ns. Sometimes the letters lead to a better phrase and, actually, I prefer the more humanised:
Although, as some artist friends pointed out on Instagram, this blankness would be sorted with some of their handcrafted tubes of oil paint! If you’re interested, just pop over to Foldyard here in Berwick on Bridge Street.
And so to the end of the month and what has become a hope trope! This time ‘hope’ with a different emphasis.
This seemed to resonate with people. Friends on Instagram and Facebook responded to HOPE/IS/A GIFT with affirmations: ‘Yes – absolutely’, ‘Indeed’. And with assertions: ‘A necessity’, ‘(a gift) that must be shared’, ‘ (a gift)…that is well grounded in God’s promises‘, ‘From God given to us in our Saviour Jesus Christ’.
Even as I write, the vote on the Brexit deal in Parliament has been postponed – having been set to go ahead as recently as this morning! We live in strange times. Whichever way your politics swing, and whatever your thoughts on Brexit, it is all very unsettling. All very ‘uncharted territory’ as Theresa May might say. However, that’s to suggest that we are or have been in ‘charted’ territory.
And so, fittingly, and somewhat unexpectedly, December has arrived and I am about to complete 52 weeks of placing different phrases in my front window.
Since I won’t be writing a post until 2019, I’d like to wish you a peaceful Christmas and a hopeful New Year – and to leave you with this week’s #wordsinmywindow: