Jul 30, 2016

Home again

Museum tickets from Chicago and Library of Congress banned books fridge magnet
I’m back in the UK, and I have hundreds of photos to process, odds and ends to sort through, and memories to make sense of. I expect there will be a couple of travel posts once I’m done; in the meantime, I just wanted to say that this trip brought me far more hope and joy than I ever thought possible. I feel like I’ve met and hugged the entire Internet; I saw incredible places, I laughed more in two weeks than I normally do in months, and I felt deeply connected to my fellow humans.

Lately I’ve been thinking a lot about Rebecca Solnit’s Hope in the Dark. I saw it everywhere on my travels, it feels like, and when I was in Chicago I read her recent Guardian piece, “Hope is an embrace of the unknown”:
Hope locates itself in the premises that we don’t know what will happen and that in the spaciousness of uncertainty is room to act. When you recognise uncertainty, you recognise that you may be able to influence the outcomes — you alone or you in concert with a few dozen or several million others. Hope is an embrace of the unknown and the unknowable, an alternative to the certainty of both optimists and pessimists. Optimists think it will all be fine without our involvement; pessimists adopt the opposite position; both excuse themselves from acting. It is the belief that what we do matters even though how and when it may matter, who and what it may impact, are not things we can know beforehand. We may not, in fact, know them afterwards either, but they matter all the same, and history is full of people whose influence was most powerful after they were gone.
What she writes about has been crucial to me, both on a personal and on a political level: over the past year or so, I’ve been learning to let go of a sense of inevitability deeply rooted in fear, which I feel has dominated my thinking for much of my life. It’s a work in progress, but slowly I’m becoming more comfortable with uncertainty and the possibilities it offers; there are endless reserves of hope to be found in that. I’ve spent months and months planning and daydreaming about this trip, and throughout all that time I took pleasure in the knowledge that it would be full of details that I couldn’t possibly foresee or imagine; that it would be joyous in ways I couldn’t see coming. I can’t tell you how big a deal it is for me to experience this as a source of pleasure rather than of anxiety.

It’s been a strange couple of weeks: I was waiting for a table at Uno in Chicago when I started seeing people around me look down at their phones and gasp in horror — at, as I soon found out, the news coming out of France. And that’s of course only one among many recent horrors. The world is still a terrifying place, and I’m still as vulnerable to recent political events as I was before I left. At the same time, though, I spent these weeks deeply immersed in a sense of joy and love that felt completely beyond my reach only a few months ago, and I know that both these things are equally true. Ours is a world where they live side by side, and the only way I can carry on is by keeping sight of both. We have so many legitimate reasons to be deeply afraid, and so much genuine hope to find in one another.

12 comments:

  1. This is beautiful. I'm glad the trip was so restorative and life affirming for you.

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  2. "Ours is a world where they live side by side, and the only way I can carry on is by keeping sight of both. We have so many legitimate reasons to be deeply afraid, and so much genuine hope to find in one another." <--I need these words. I need them again and again and again. Thank you. For everything.

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  3. I'm glad you had such a great time. :D

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  4. We are so in the same place right now and there's no way I could have gotten there without you. I related to this post so much in my own way, but never could've put it as beautifully as you did. Thanks for those words and everything else and I can't tell you how happy it makes me that this trip was what you needed right now :) it was the same for me!

    Also, score! I already have Hope In the Dark so one less book I have to buy :p

    I'm sending you pictures soon! Like probably tomorrow!

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  5. I am glad you had such a great trip! You met people that make me jealous for sure. I look forward to hearing more about it!

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  6. Haha, aww, I see my card. <3 I'm so glad the trip was reuvenating and heartening. <3

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  7. I'm glad you had such a great trip, Ana, and I can't wait to hear more about it. There's been a lot this year -- I don't know if it truly is more than other years, or if it just feels like it because I'm paying more attention? I don't know. It's tricky. But at the same time, as you say, there are days when people make me feel so happy and hopeful.

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  8. Thank you so much, friends! ♥ ♥ ♥ More words and photos soon!

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  9. I'm so glad to hear your trip brought you so much joy and you were able to get back that sense of wonder. Have fun going through your pictures and reminding yourself of the good times!

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  10. I am so glad you had a such a wonderful trip!

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