Monday, September 01, 2014

Standing At The Gates of Hope - A Review of "The Impossible Will Take A Little While," edited by Paul Rogat Loeb

What made this such an interesting read for me was not only the content of the book, but also the way in which I became aware of it.  "The Impossible Will Take A Little While - A Citizen's Guide To Hope In A Time Of Fear" is a compendium of sixty essays, memoirs, letters and poems proffered primarily to left-leaning activists.  The purpose of this book is to offer them the courage to keep working at various forms of resistance in the face of daunting evidence that the world continues to fall apart despite their best efforts to prop it up.

The book was mailed to me from Skagway, Alaska by a young friend who was deeply moved and inspired by the book, edited by Paul Rogat Loeb.  My friend, Jay, hails from a decidedly Red State in the South and comes from a very conservative Christian background.  The fact that he found this book to be significant enough to make copious notes and to mail it to me says a great deal about Jay's openness to other ways of looking at the world, and to the editor's fairness in assembling pieces for the book that represent a broad enough diversity of perspectives that they speak across traditional calcified lines of political demarcation.

The list of authors from whose writings and speeches Mr. Loeb has drawn his excerpts is an impressive array: Maya Angelou, MLK, Jr., Nelson Mandela, Jonathan Kozol, Vaclav Havel, Alice Walker, Henri Nouwen, Jim Wallis, Desmond Tutu, et al.  He makes clear the purpose of the book in two short quotations I will share.

Having been challenged by Phil Berrigan to become more actively involved in the fight to eliminate nuclear weapons, Loeb makes the following observation: "Democracy needs us all, the heroic few and the humble many, whether our acts are performed center stage, and to thunderous applause, or in the wings, heralded by none but friends and family.  And the heroic draw strength from the humble just as often as the humble draw strength from the heroic.  That's one of the cardinal themes of this book." (pp. 177-8)

He quotes a psychiatrist at a prestigious women's college who had recently lost a student she was counseling. The young woman had taken her own life:

"You know I cannot  save them.  I am not here to save anybody or the world.  All I can do - what I am called to do - is to plant myself at the gates of Hope.  Sometimes they come in; sometimes they walk by.  But I stand there every day and I call out until my lungs are sore with calling, and beckon and urge them in toward beautiful life and love." (page 187)

By compiling these nuggets of wisdom and of challenge, Mr. Loeb has planted himself at the gates of Hope, and I for one am glad that he has.



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