Langston Hughes

In honor of National Black Poetry Day, I am sharing a couple of poems from Langston Hughes.
Harlem, by Langston Hughes
What happens to a dream deferred?
      Does it dry up
      like a raisin in the sun?
      Or fester like a sore—
      And then run?
      Does it stink like rotten meat?
      Or crust and sugar over—
      like a syrupy sweet?
      Maybe it just sags
      like a heavy load.
Or does it explode?
Let America Be America Again, by Langston Hughes
Let America be America again.
Let it be the dream it used to be.
Let it be the pioneer on the plain
Seeking a home where he himself is free.

(America never was America to me.)

Let America be the dream the dreamers dreamed—
Let it be that great strong land of love
Where never kings connive nor tyrants scheme
That any man be crushed by one above.

(It never was America to me.)

O, let my land be a land where Liberty
Is crowned with no false patriotic wreath,
But opportunity is real, and life is free,
Equality is in the air we breathe.

(There’s never been equality for me,
Nor freedom in this “homeland of the free.”)

Say, who are you that mumbles in the dark? 
And who are you that draws your veil across the stars?

I am the poor white, fooled and pushed apart,
I am the Negro bearing slavery’s scars.
I am the red man driven from the land,
I am the immigrant clutching the hope I seek—
And finding only the same old stupid plan
Of dog eat dog, of mighty crush the weak.

I am the young man, full of strength and hope,
Tangled in that ancient endless chain
Of profit, power, gain, of grab the land!
Of grab the gold! Of grab the ways of satisfying need!
Of work the men! Of take the pay!
Of owning everything for one’s own greed!

I am the farmer, bondsman to the soil.
I am the worker sold to the machine.
I am the Negro, servant to you all.
I am the people, humble, hungry, mean—
Hungry yet today despite the dream.
Beaten yet today—O, Pioneers!
I am the man who never got ahead,
The poorest worker bartered through the years.

Yet I’m the one who dreamt our basic dream
In the Old World while still a serf of kings,
Who dreamt a dream so strong, so brave, so true,
That even yet its mighty daring sings
In every brick and stone, in every furrow turned
That’s made America the land it has become.
O, I’m the man who sailed those early seas
In search of what I meant to be my home—
For I’m the one who left dark Ireland’s shore,
And Poland’s plain, and England’s grassy lea,
And torn from Black Africa’s strand I came
To build a “homeland of the free.”

The free?

Who said the free?  Not me?
Surely not me?  The millions on relief today?
The millions shot down when we strike?
The millions who have nothing for our pay?
For all the dreams we’ve dreamed
And all the songs we’ve sung
And all the hopes we’ve held
And all the flags we’ve hung,
The millions who have nothing for our pay—
Except the dream that’s almost dead today.

O, let America be America again—
The land that never has been yet—
And yet must be—the land where every man is free.
The land that’s mine—the poor man’s, Indian’s, Negro’s, ME—
Who made America,
Whose sweat and blood, whose faith and pain,
Whose hand at the foundry, whose plow in the rain,
Must bring back our mighty dream again.

Sure, call me any ugly name you choose—
The steel of freedom does not stain.
From those who live like leeches on the people’s lives,
We must take back our land again,
America!

O, yes,
I say it plain,
America never was America to me,
And yet I swear this oath—
America will be!

Out of the rack and ruin of our gangster death,
The rape and rot of graft, and stealth, and lies,
We, the people, must redeem
The land, the mines, the plants, the rivers.
The mountains and the endless plain—
All, all the stretch of these great green states—
And make America again!
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Live New

Stop hating yourself before
You accept what you hated you for.
You’re tired of fighting, I’m sure,
but step away from the anchor
you want to drop in these
poisonous, restless seas.

It’s the waves you must fight,
while you rest in the Light.
Speak peace to the wind
And sail on from your sin.

Because it’s not who you are,
though it rises from within.
You’ve been given a new heart.
Stop hating your own skin,
as you war against your sin.

You are new. Live new.
Free from condemnation,
Free to deny what is no longer you.
Accept this liberation
and live new.

 

Tell Me Why

Tell me why I should pry
these hands apart and try
to make and maintain
a hidden peaceful terrain
that no one else sees,
if it only blesses me.

My child, let Me explain.
Your home is my home.
The places you roam
are under my reign.

I plant flowers undiscovered
in fields under covers of snow.
Where only I know, they grow.
I make stars and galaxies
far from the sight of technology.
And I swing planets on a string
beyond your wildest dreams.
I form wonders on the floor
of oceans yet unexplored.
I set the path for birds to fly
where no heart can know to sigh
or lament its fall from the sky.
My thoughts and my creative care
reaches there.

What do you believe about Me?
I do not neglect the lonely.
It blesses me to bless you with peace,
And someday you will share
what has been hidden with care.

Iconoclastic: reflections on A Grief Observed

I had to look that word up. C.S. Lewis does that to me – makes me look up words. And it’s a good one. Iconoclastic. It means “attacking or ignoring cherished beliefs and long-held traditions, etc.,as being based on error, superstition, or lack of creativity…”

In A Grief Observed, Lewis dives into the necessity of shattering our false ideas about God.

“My idea of God is not a divine idea. It has to be shattered time after time. He shatters it Himself. He is the great iconoclast. Could we not almost say that this shattering is one of the marks of His presence?”

And, of course, the main subject of the book is Lewis’ grieving the death of his wife. Therefore the following relates to the image and ‘cherished beliefs’ we have of people being shattered, particularly of loved ones. He wrestles with the fear of loving the memory of her rather than her herself. He loved her iconoclastic reality.

“All reality is iconoclastic. The earthly beloved, even in this life, incessantly triumphs over your mere idea of her. And you want her to; you want her with all her resistances, all her faults, all her unexpectedness.”

Can I swoon for a second? I want a love like that. Love that cherishes the reality of who you are and not the mere idea of you. To have the freedom to contradict the idea of yourself, and still be loved, and loved even more for being real. ❤ How many of us have lost love for not being “what I thought you were” ? Surely then, we were in love with an idea rather than a person.

If indeed we love people and God rather than our ideas of them, it is a relief when our ideas are shattered. What a relief to be shown where we are wrong! Oh, God, I didn’t know! And now “I have come to misunderstand a little less completely,” (Lewis) What a blessing it is to get that much closer to You by destroying my false ideas about You!

“And all this time I may, once more, be building with cards. And if I am He will once more knock the building flat. He will knock it down as often as proves necessary.”

And at the possibility of being even better understood by his wife after her death, he did not shrink back – confident in her love. 

“For this is one of the miracles of love; it gives – to both, but perhaps especially to the woman – a power of seeing through its own enchantments and yet not being disenchanted.”

And this intimate knowledge and love is what our Savior Jesus Christ possesses for us.

“His love and His knowledge are not distinct from one another, nor from Him.”

2014

A poem on the year 2014. 

Homeless; not hopeless.
It’s under control
Unemployed;  not destroyed.
You cannot take my soul
A penny for my thoughts
A penny never sought.
Endless words. “You ought”

Think back on all I learned
The lessons that I spurned
No. Not ready to be taught
Let me think of something else
Something other than myself
Or him. Definitely not him.

The good memories are the worst
They carry away my hope in a hearse
So sweet. He swept me off my feet
And my brain took a vacation.
But I remained to romanticize the pain.

Thank God it is over
and I left to gather clover
With children who keep getting older.
Babies of my sisters and brother.

And without knowing anything else,
they taught me the joy of innocence
in the little moments they would forget
But I would hold forever.

Fyodor

I want to say to you, about myself, that I am a child of this age, a child of unfaith and scepticism, and probably (indeed I know it) shall remain so to the end of my life. How dreadfully has it tormented me (and torments me even now) this longing for faith, which is all the stronger for the proofs I have against it. And yet God gives me sometimes moments of perfect peace; in such moments I love and believe that I am loved; in such moments I have formulated my creed, wherein all is clear and holy to me. This creed is extremely simple; here it is: I believe that there is nothing lovelier, deeper, more sympathetic, more rational, more manly, and more perfect than the Saviour; I say to myself with jealous love that not only is there no one else like Him, but that there could be no one. I would even say more: If anyone could prove to me that Christ is outside the truth, and if the truth really did exclude Christ, I should prefer to stay with Christ and not with truth.

Letter To Mme. N. D. Fonvisin (1854), as published in Letters of Fyodor Michailovitch Dostoevsky to his Family and Friends (1914), translated by Ethel Golburn Mayne, Letter XXI, p. 71

Sound Health with Julian Treasure

When I first stumbled upon Julian Treasure’s TED Talks, I was so excited. I thought, “This is it. This is my cure.” And when you’ve been plagued with the “hatred of sound” for nearly 20 years, a cure is nothing short of miraculous. Thinking about sound and listening in a new way, as well as creating healthy “soundscapes,” was wonderfully therapeutic.

Well, it was helpful, but not necessarily a cure. Misophonia is such a moody beast. Even when something really helps, it’s benefit for me often has an unanticipated expiration date. But, unlike whatever I may find growing in my fridge, it’s expiration is not final. And it’s been a while, so it might be beneficial to revisit.

He never mentions Misophonia, and his talks are more geared toward the general public, so this is good for most anyone. 

Now, I need to find a TED talk on how to survive the awful music my workplace insists on. 😉

-Peace

Stay Awake & Become

This has been my lifelong struggle – simply getting out of bed in the morning. It should be simple, right? I’m not talking about difficulty with waking, but more so staying awake and physically moving my limbs towards activity.

I was almost successful this morning! I woke up and got out of bed when my alarm went off, stayed out of bed… grabbed a pillow and blanket and laid down on the floor. This is progress, people! Haha. You’ve got to laugh at yourself every once in a while.

There is this “5 Second Rule” authored by the brilliant Mel Robbins, that I have been attempting.

So here’s the one-liner definition of the 5 second rule:

If you have an impulse to act on a goal, you must physically move within 5 seconds or your brain will kill the idea.

She recommends, when your alarm goes off, count down – 5, 4, 3, 2, 1 – and act! Which is a great idea, and I am going to try it again. Clearly, I haven’t perfected the method, given the example from this morning. If only my self-sabotaging instincts weren’t so strong! My brain tries to talk me out of action while I am counting. I think the trick is to only think about counting and move – not to give space to the voice in your head talking you out of a good thing.

Becoming 

On a tangent (which is essentially related, but you’ll have to read on to find out how), I rented “Becoming Jane” from the library, and it’s a heartbreaking story of the life of Jane Austen – who, though she wrote extensively of love and marriage, never married. I knew there wasn’t going to be a happy ending – but it rattled me a bit anyway. As realistic as I tend to be, I do like a happy ending. (Though, of course, not marrying is not the worst thing that could happen, by a long shot.)

But it reminded me of a simple fact – no matter whether or not I ever marry, there is one person I will have to spend the rest of my life with… myself.

I share this to say that there is value in becoming someone you would like to be around. And I would like to become someone who can get out of bed in the morning… And someone who gets outside and talks to people. Someone who loves without fear.

So I’ll try the 5 Second Rule Again.

For the love of the God Man who first loved me; for the praise of Him in His glory.

1 John 49-10 God showed how much he loved us by sending his one and only Son into the world so that we might have eternal life through him. This is real love—not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as a sacrifice to take away our sins.

 

On a Positive Note: Questions on Authentic Happiness

Coping with mental health can be draining. Sometimes certain strategies (non-prescription, non-medical) work for a few months, and then they don’t work anymore. At least, that has been my experience.

I wanted to be a tad bit vulnerable here without over-sharing. Honestly, I would rather not go into details about the can of worms that is my mental health (focusing on the problem). Instead, I would like to share coping strategies – as they come, and as they go.

Hopefully, documenting them here will provide a convenient place I can come back to if I want to recycle a strategy to see if it might work again. And maybe someone else can find this helpful too.

Yesterday’s find: Positive Psychology. I watched this TED Talk by Martin Seligman.
In this talk, he sites his website www.authentichappiness.org. I went to the website and took literally all of the questionnaires that were applicable to me. And I felt better. Just answering the questions help me re-frame my mindset – particularly the Engagement Questionnaires.

For example, the Gratitude Survey provides sentences & you rate how much you agree or disagree. I love this format. You might know that being grateful is a key to being happy, but the prompt to “count your blessings” can come across as a bit condescending (don’t ask me why, but it feels that way sometimes). Instead, here, you’re given a sentence – “I have so much in life to be thankful for,” and now you can step outside of your thought life and emotions and answer objectively, without fear of judgment. Realistically, yeah, I do have a lot in life to be thankful for. And sometimes it takes framing the question a different way for me to see it.

I might just write down those “questions” in my journal to look back on. (And keeping a journal has been one of the most consistently helpful tools. Writing helps me to pray, and Jesus calms my soul.)

Peace ❤