Part of WordPress’s writing course Finding Everyday Inspiration.
Today’s inspiration is a one-word prompt, which I honestly find highly uninspiring. The words offered couldn’t have been cheesier: hope, love and world peace. Kidding. It’s in fact: hope, regret, home, choice, secret, abundance. How I regret my choice of signing up for this nonsense, now I’m sitting at home, nourishing a secret hope that I shall create something sensible out of the nonsense, and being depressed in abundance. Well, that would be it. Kidding. I’ll write about hope.
Hope is the thing with feathers
That perches in the soul…
I’ve always appreciated Dickinson’s metaphor in this poem, but I never quite got it. It’s not that it troubles me—poetry isn’t necessarily to be “got”. But Hope is the thing with feathers, what? Such as a down coat? (Because you put on a coat in hope you won’t freeze to death?) Or a duck? (Because you eat a Peking duck and hope it’s still socially acceptable not to be a vegan?)
In the mental ward, we (We the Patients) would comfort one another with Let’s hope it gets better. It wasn’t very comforting and it never got better. (No wonder, when hope is a duck.) Hope is an optimistic faith in the future. It does me little good, yet I’m convinced that optimism is the privilege of the young and naive, and that experience shows otherwise. Here’s a story to that effect, whose source I’ve tragically forgotten, but it was absolutely a Scottish writer. It’s Scots who do the ultimate bleak humour.
It’s a short story illustrating the growing up of a boy on the incident when the father hoists the kid on the mantelpiece and encourages him to jump into his arms. Guess what happens? Yep, the father deliberately steps aside, the kid faceplants and is taught a lesson: Trust nae cunt. (Aside one, the quote is accurate, I have a memory for them; aside two, it occurred to me to search for the quote and, alas, it’s a story by Janice Galloway from the 1991 collection Blood.)
Should there be more literary evidence needed that Joy is joyless, love is loveless and everything is just as bad as you’d always suspected (this is another half-remembered paraphrase from a not-remembered Scottish source), I provide a quote from the best-loved book of the Scottish (obviously) genius, Alasdair Gray, and his Lanark.
I wish I was a duck on Alexandra Pond. I could swim, and fly, and walk, and have three wives, and everything I wanted. But I’m a man. I have a mind, and three library tickets, and everything I want is impossible.
That makes it official. Hope is a duck.