Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Advent, Havel, and Hope

In this season of the coming solstice and Advent, hope is a common theme. I am going to share two pieces of writing and the connection between them. The first is from my friend Bill Flug, pastor of the Wesley United Methodist Church in Lincoln, RI. He makes daily posts on the church's facebook page and I always enjoy reading them. On December 2 he wrote:

As We Start Our Day

It’s Advent! Yesterday at worship Linda and Jerry Leach lit the first candle on our Advent wreath – the candle of Hope.

It’s hard from childhood onward not to confuse hope with wishing. As children, our parents gave my sister and me three Christmas wishes and worked very hard to make them come true under our tree. I recall my happiness when it happened. I recall my disappointment when it couldn’t.

We often do wish for things to come out the way we want, but hope isn’t wishing. Hope is the deep assurance of security even when things don’t turn out as we desire. It’s the foundational feeling that we are in God’s loving hands even when what we might least want in all the world happens to us or to those we love. It’s trust that no matter how things go from day to day, we belong to God.

Pastor Bill

I had seen Bill the weekend before at a concert of Nowell Sing We Clear. We originally connected through mail and emails when the group was performing at his then church in Westford, MA. At the concert, I delivered to Bill three of my little quote booklets made from old brush practice papers.

I hadn't thought much about the brush papers until I read Bill's post and then remembered that I had used them to make a book called Havel on Hope in 1990.

Here's what I wrote about the book then:

The text comes from Disturbing the Peace by Vaclav Havel, playwright, former political prisoner and President of Czechoslovakia. The book form is based on the palm leaf books of India. Strips of bookbinder's board were covered with Japanese writing paper with abstract brush drawings. Although not intentional, the cut and paste copier text reminds me of the underground presses of Iron Curtain Czechoslovakia where photocopying was state controlled and people risked prison to copy books that could not be published.

After I had exhibited the book a few times, I made the bold move of sending it to President Havel through his publisher. Some time later, I received a treasured letter from Anna Freimanova, his personal secretary for literary and theatre matters.

Allow me please to thank you on behalf of Vaclav Havel for the letter and your beautiful rare present—the extraordinary book in that you used a quotation from "Disturbing the Peace". Mr. Havel saw his texts edited in different countries and in various arrangements, but he was very surprised and delighted with a so original work.

Here is the full quotation I used in the book:

Hope, in this deep and powerful sense is not the same as joy that things are going well, or willingness to invest in enterprises that are obviously headed for early success, but, rather, an ability to work for something because it is good, not just because it stands a chance to succeed. The more unpropitious the situation in which we demonstrate hope, the deeper that hope is. Hope is definitely not the same thing as optimism. It is not the conviction that something will turn out well, but the certainty that something makes sense, regardless of how it turns out. In short, I think the deepest and most important form of hope, the only one that can keep us above water and urge us to do good works, and the only true source of the breathtaking dimension of the human spirit and its efforts, is something we get, as it were, from "elsewhere." It is also this hope, above all, which gives us the strength to live and continually try new things, even in conditions that seem as hopeless as ours do, here and now.

I have several of the little quote booklets for sale in my etsy shop.


Mo Crow said...

great quote from Vaclav Havel and your Hope book is lovely!

Susan Kapuscinski Gaylord said...

Thanks Mo!

Hannah Hunter said...

Susan, This is such a great post for the season as we hover on what has been (the year past) and what is yet to be. I think that hope is also the practice of holding our wishes gently, knowing that they may be blown away in the next wind--but always, always knowing that we, too, are held in the hands of the Divine. Thank you for these beautiful books.

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