“I can't run no more
with that lawless crowd
while the killers in high places
say their prayers out loud.
But they've summoned, they've summoned up
and they're going to hear from me.
Ring the bells that still can ring
Forget your perfect offering
There is a crack in everything
That's how the light gets in.”
The Light of Hope
During my life here on earth there have been few artists who have spoken to me as eloquently as Leonard Cohen. His words wove themselves into a language only my soul could understand, often denying me the ability to adequately articulate their unique meaning for to do so would have been equal to translating words only recognized by the heart. In a prescient move that seemed to underscore the title of his only just released collection of songs, You Want it Darker, Leonard Cohen shook off the bonds of this world the day after the US election. (The wisest woman of my acquaintance beat him by one day.) And darker seems to be what we are destined to experience. For an artist whose observations had illuminated the vicissitudes of our culture for decades, perhaps what we currently prepare to face was simply more than God felt he should have to endure. Leonard Cohen’s work was done. Ours is just beginning.
With each new henchman nominated to the cabinet of our new president-elect it becomes clearer that the values I hold dear will be under ridicule and peril over the next four years. A known darling of white supremacists is now the chief presidential strategist. We have a prospective Secretary of Energy who has voiced his desire to abolish that department entirely. A possible Secretary of Education who is famously no fan of public education and a choice for Attorney General whose racist views denied him a judgeship in the past. Up for Secretary of the Environmental Protection Agency is a man who scoffs at the idea of climate change and our nominee for Secretary of State is the president of Exxon Mobile, a man impoverished in foreign policy experience but rich in oil negotiations, particularly with Russia. It is now been proven by the CIA, FBI and the State Department that Russia influenced our election process to favor our new president-elect. This fact is made even more frightening in the face of such nonchalant response from the same people who handled Mrs. Clinton’s innocuous emails as though each was still burning with hellfire itself. It does not take much awareness to know that if the situation were reversed and Russia had successfully aided Mrs. Clinton the blowback from Congress and their talk radio pals would have been strong enough to sandblast the faces off Mt. Rushmore. At what point does hypocrisy become evil?
By most anyone’s estimation this had been a dreadful year. We have lost far too many bright lights to count. Harper Lee, Prince, David Bowie, Zaha Hadid, Alan Rickman, Gene Wilder, Sir George Martin, John Glenn - just a small mention of everyone who left us. New words entered our vocabulary: Zika, Brexit, Aleppo. We gaped as dignity, intelligence and grace were kicked to the curb in our embarrassing presidential election. We mourned with those in Nice and Paris. And in the midst of it all we wrestled with a frustrating sense of impotence in the face of each new horror, each new pain. For what can one person do, really, in the face of a chaos that threatens to obliterate every goodness it can find.
This weekend we celebrate the birth of Christ, a birth that was illuminated by a star of great light. A star of hope. In an interview this week Michelle Obama said, “Hope is necessary. What else do you have if you don’t have hope? What do you give your children if you can’t give them hope?" Indeed, Christmas has always been about hope. Hope of a new world, a new birth - hope of forgiveness, love, and comfort. It is that hope that puts my feet on the ground each morning with a continued determination to do what I can, however small and insignificant it may seem, to foster beauty and kindness in the world around me, to share a bit of the hope announced by that long ago star .
In my book of essays, From the House of Edward, there is a piece I wrote one cold night during a Christmas season several years ago when I couldn’t sleep. Sitting beside a twinkling Christmas tree as the last embers of a fire dwindled down in the grate I looked out my frost-rimmed window and felt as though my little fir-scented home was as removed from the ugliness of the world as those storybook cottages that sit, forever serene, inside a snow globe. This year I feel that way more than ever. It is from home that I take my strength to face the world around me. Inside these walls it is cheery, loving and warm. There is respect, kindness and laughter. A favorite light is always on in the window, a light that glows in the darkness when I pull in the drive in the evening and, like the great star before it, it gives me hope, for I know inside those doors I’ll find much needed nourishment for my soul.
May we all look to that star of hope this Christmas season. May it give us what we need to fight the good fight in the coming year; the fight for goodness, truth, love, and compassion. And may all my wonderful readers have a Merry, Merry Christmas as we march into a new year with the determination such hope provides.
Bless you all.