A dream can be deferred, but not forever.
You can go a good bit longer, if you have hope. You can defer your desire, if you can still dream that good will come. Hope only helps when there is a decent reason to think the dream can live, that history can become mythic, even for a moment. If a dream keeps getting pushed off, promising moments remain unfulfilling, then hope fades. A sage once said: 12Hope deferred makes the heart sick, but when the desire comes, it is a tree of life.
When something good could have been, but isn’t, then that is sickening. When something should have been, but isn’t, then that is deadly. The soul needs justice with mercy as plants need water. Without justice, the heart withers and dies. A human can cope with “is” not being as it “ought to be” for a good long time, but when justice is denied one too many times, then hope seems a mere fantasy.
A problem with any prolonged injustice, three hundred years of slavery, or decades of legalized abortion, is that the human heart grows weary. We know what should be, see the possibility that it could be, then are denied multiple times. Each instance deadens us a bit, because the rationality of hoping, fades. Anyone can fantasize about something, anything, even without expectation it could or even should happen. Our rational nature cannot be content with mere dreams, but longs for substance. We need substance to our hope, faith, and then, eventually, seeing our faith vindicated by actualization.
Actual justice is the tribute the good society pays the hopeful man.
The dreams of a people can be deferred, but can the hopes of an individual. Society can grind the quirky down, refusing to acknowledge harmless, but unconventional dreams. Fearing something different, we may isolate, even if unintentionally, our very best artists. We want our standard songs and dreams like our own. We take the color and harmonies out of God’s creation for monochrome and monotone.
Why should it be my loneliness,
Why should it be my song,
Why should it be my dream
Hughes reflects both deferred hopes of being Black in America and his own isolation as an artist.
If dreams deferred make loneliness, then continuously, endlessly putting off fulfillment of hope is exhausting. Hughes asks society or God or someone to tell him why this must be so. Most of us, even those who do not face the societal injustice Hughes did, know some of this pain. More of us should pause and consider how we can help end loneliness, hear the song, and realize the dream in the people around us.
We might be able to respond to this heart cry in people around us.
God have mercy.