I’m a bit of a contradiction when it comes to hope. At times, I have my head in the clouds, lovely dreams fluttering across my mind of life ahead. At other times, life seems too unpredictable and my dreams too light to even breathe the word “hope.”
I have felt hopeless, dear reader. I know what it feels like to be ground under the weight of unknowns — unable to raise my eyes from the shattered fragments of my life. I know what it feels like to have a broken mind, wreaked with rumination and disorder. I know what it feels like to sit, paralyzed in a state of dire helplessness — unable to escape the chains that have bound me to darkness. To live eternity in a few seconds.
In those moments, hope vanishes. My heart whispers, “If the World collapsed at this moment — it wouldn’t be such a bad thing… Life has already become a nightmare.”
In the midst of darkness, it can be appealing to suppress hope. To listen to the voices whisper that “there is no escape.” Held captive by the lies and the darkness, a fog suddenly descends on the future… A direct, eternal path of suffering and strife. The thoughts of clinging to beauty and goodness appear laughable as I peer into the endless, boundless fog of darkness.
In my experience, I’ve come to learn that hope is fragile; it needs nourishment to become a valiant defense against the darkness. There are several things that steady my hope when despair grips my soul.
Music is one of them. Music strikes a chord in my heart, fills me with awe, and spirits me away from the chaos of the world. When I play a song, I’m suddenly in a universe of symphony and meaning. Roo Panes is an artist with music that performs this effect. As a British musician, he’s fairly well known in England. Yet, in my humble opinion, he deserves more attention. His words remind me of autumnal breezes, cold dawns, light, the sea, cloudy skies… and hope. Among the pretentious and often meaningless music released today, the sincerity in his words penetrated my hopeless heart.
It’s as if he gathered the darkest fragments of our world, wove them into his music, and surrounded them with light. He did not extinguish the darkness, nor try to, but he presented enough goodness and beauty alongside the darkness to make life more endurable. Even beautiful.
By doing this, he grows hope. True, the darkness remains — but so does the beauty. Hope does not expel darkness but directs our focus from the shadows to the good, true, and beautiful things in life. Hope acknowledges its presence but makes the decision to dwell less on the weary brokenness and more on the gentle light.
His songs “Ophelia” and “Soldier of Hope” exemplify this idea of hope.
Take heart, my love, Cause when I see you I see hope, There’s a world that needs what you’ve got to give.
With Soldier of Hope, Panes touches on the fact that humans can still cling to hope even when darkness remains. Just because the world is not bright does not mean hope is gone.
There's been many reasons for a while to sit and cry But now I know they're coming to an end I've been fighting on the front lines, a soldier for the good times Fighting for the freedom of my friends My hands have felt suppression, a life of toil and blood My heart has heard the soul cries of the poor
In the midst of the battle, when reasons to “sit and cry” press in, he holds onto hope by a string. He’s fought for goodness, for beauty, for freedom… and yet, the world remains dark. Cries echo, turmoil reigns — reasons abound to fall into the well of despair.
So I say, "Oh, no, don't cry, it's in your heart So dry those eyes, keep holding on For your dear life, be a soldier of hope"
Yet, in spite of everything, his heart clings to hope. It anchors him. It is something he has to fight for. He’s a soldier of hope.
This portrayal of hope speaks to me in a surreal way. A figure, blindfolded and clothed in rags, bends attentively to listen to the remaining chord of her harp. Darkness clothes her setting, touching her. And yet she listens, she clings, to the single string that breathes hope. She’s wearied of the world and of the shadows… And yet, instead of collapsing into the darkness, she grips her harp tightly and tunes her ear to the notes of goodness, of beauty.
This is hope.
Hope does not change our present circumstances. It does not make the world perfect, nor our life magically beautiful.
Rather, it directs our gaze from the darkness around us to something deeper. Something quieter. The chord of a harp, the call of a bird, the whisper of a song… And gradually, strings are added to the harp. Strings to nourish, to strengthen, and to grow us.
To make us soldiers of hope.