Sunday, May 17, 2009

"A hope unreasonable and highly jarring..."

As a faculty member I'm expected to attend the annual commencement ceremony at the liberal arts college where I work.

I'm a new employee, and last year I skipped it.

I have a strong aversion to highly structured, large group activities. I hated school field trips and summer camp. I'm a loner. "Organized fun" is arsenic to my soul.

So I attended this year's graduation festivities with gritted teeth laced with a healthy dose of guilt at my own selfishness about my time (I had some really wonderful seniors this year and I was happy to see their accomplishments), though I think most writers are time-hoarders like myself.

For the most part it was what I expected. Platitudes, sentiment, congratulations. The unexpected came in the words of the college chaplain, who gave the invocation to the ceremony.

She asked that students move through the world with "a hope unreasonable and highly jarring." This phrase shook me out of my own thoughts and struck me as not only raw in its truth but profound in its timeliness.

The graduating class enters a failing job market and an unstable world. The keynote speaker at the commencement, a United Nations officer whose job takes him face to face with child soldiers in Africa, described the atrocities of war and a lost generation of children. Needless to say, his address was more sobering than inspiring.

In light of these truths, hope becomes unreasonable and the act of dreaming remains highly jarring. These dual processes, essential to a thriving soul, are all to elusive in a world that is often lonely, merciless, and alienating.

Writers are hope junkies. We have to be. We strive to create against the odds of getting an agent, being published, having success, one day making enough by writing in order to quit our day jobs.

We have hope that is always unreasonable and beliefs in our ability to continue this work that are always highly jarring. Our maladies are self-doubt, depression, despondency. We tread water amid high seas with stones chained to our ankles.

I mentioned in my last post that I was about to attend a reading by Rick Riordan. His visit was in a huge space that was brimming with children and parents, standing room only. I can't describe the elation I felt at seeing so many young boys and girls, hands stretched to heaven, waiting for their questions to be answered and shrieking with delight at discussion of their favorite characters from his books.

Riordan was a middle-school teacher for 15 years and at this reading he announced two new book series he's writing and that the movie of The Lightning Thief will be out this February.

In light of such impossible twists of fate an aspiring author might despair, could decide "that will never be me." But did I?


My hope unreasonable and highly jarring remains to one day stand before an audience, like Riordan, and share the love of my books.


  1. And you will : ) Make sure to invite me to one of your readings!

  2. reminds me of dickinson too :) great post & thought-provoking. i enjoyed riordan's first book; I'll have to catch up!