Hello friends, happy Saturday! Are you frozen, cuddled up somewhere and thinking of comfort food? Or are you making plans to seize the day because like Choctaw, Oklahoma, your town has dodged another winter bullet? However your January Saturday looks, I have a small, luscious dose of literature to share. Maybe it will warm you a little.
Albert Camus was an Algerian writer living in France during and following the Nazi occupation. Brought up by proletariat parents and active in journalism during a fascinating chapter of history, he contributed to the world a sea of newsy, theatrical, and philosophical writings for all of his 47 years (Camus was killed in a car wreck). In 1957 he became the second youngest recipient of the Nobel prize in literature.
The poem below is one of his that I have personally loved for many years, and as casual readers are free to do I have always gleaned from it whatever I wish, whatever I need at the time. Lately, I appreciate the idea that we can nurture within ourselves a wellspring of joy, health, and light. Not humanism, by the way, just a deliberate sort of well-being and faith.
I understand the need for all the seasons, including the dying and waiting times like winter and grief; but I also believe strongly in the power of gratitude and joy to transform our circumstances. Imagine building a little greenhouse for our own happiness. Like growing our own gorgeous food, cultivating our own private sense of health and joy frees us from relying so heavily on outside circumstances to be content, you know? If we can from the inside out, by our own volition, change some perspective and even actual life circumstances? Rule over them? Quite a tempting thought.
My dear, in the midst of hate, I found there was, within me, an invincible love.
In the midst of tears, I found there was, within me, an invincible smile.
In the midst of chaos, I found there was, within me, an invincible calm.
I realized, through it all, that…
In the midst of winter, I found there was, within me, an invincible summer.
And that makes me happy.
For it says that no matter how hard the world pushes against me,
within me, there’s something stronger-
something better, pushing right back.
An easy little dig about Camus lead me to a school of thought called absurdism and, friends, it’s pretty interesting. It teases to the differences between an absence of hope and actual despair: “…the total absence of hope, which has nothing to do with despair, a continual refusal, which must not be confused with renouncement – and a conscious dissatisfaction.” Does this sound to you like a little echo that despair is a choice, and so maybe also is joy?
I hope you like this poem. And I hope that whether you are simply unhappy with the cold and the dormancy of January (like my husband) or whether you are in a true valley of despair, one of those times in life when you are pressed on all sides by difficult, negative outside forces, that you find within yourself all the love, smiles, calm, and summer. I hope you can gather whatever strength you need and improve your circumstances.
You absolutely can cultivate within yourself an endless summer. All those big and little ways you have learned to nourish yourself emotionally and bodily, spiritually, all of it, they are important and valuable. I hope those seeds germinate and sprout right when you need them to. I hope they bloom and brighten your scenery and attract the right people you need and want.
And I hope you find some disco balls, yarn crafts, jungle greenery, and other things that please you to make the picture complete.
No despair. Bring on the cold.