“Hope” is the thing with feathers – (314)

Katie Spirit Leave a Comment

“Hope” is the thing with feathers –

That perches in the soul –
And sings the tune without the words –
And never stops – at all –
And sweetest – in the Gale – is heard –
And sore must be the storm –
That could abash the little Bird
That kept so many warm –
I’ve heard it in the chillest land –
And on the strangest Sea –
Yet – never – in Extremity,
It asked a crumb – of me.
Emily Dickinson

Concepts like hope are hard to grasp in tough times. How do we find hope when our hearts are heavy? Stepping outside the bounds of our literal world can help us find hope in the midst of pain. Emily Dickinson crafts a bird to describe hope. Hope is both fragile and strong. Hope is friendly and familiar. Hope perches. The song of hope warms. Hope is constant, present, and generous.

What does it mean to think about abstract concepts, like hope, in such a way they become so real that you can touch, taste, hear, and see them. What does it mean to bring abstract concepts into a collective consciousness? Perhaps that is job of the poets, philosophers, and artists – to render the abstract in such a way that they enable us to move toward our better selves, and ultimately a better world through common understanding. They might have a gift, but I think we can all work toward understanding the abstract.

I have been thinking about abstract ideas, and wondering what it would look like to paint subjects like grace, joy, peace, kindness, forgiveness, compassion in my mind’s eye. Would grace be an iris blooming in late snow? Would joy be a steamboat calliope? Would peace be a cat’s purr? Would kindness be a down comforter? Would forgiveness be an open window? Would compassion be a dancing flame?

If you were going to choose abstract ideas to describe, what would they be? Would you choose to use words to render the concept, or would you take a picture, or write a song? In the hectic pace of the day-to-day, when is there time to think about abstract ideas? Why are abstract ideas important, anyway? There is real power in exploring abstract ideas. In a world where hard edged cynicism guides our words, it is important to reclaim space for something else. In a world where we become desensitized to violence and suffering, our hearts and minds can see and feel again through abstract thinking. When we describe abstract ideas fully and talk about them together and clearly, we are closer to building the world we want and not settling for the world we have. We must remind ourselves of the radical importance of the abstract. In naming, we are making it so.

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