I’ve been scarred and battered.
My hopes the wind done scattered.
Snow has friz me, sun has baked me.
Looks like between ’em
They done tried to make me
Stop laughin’, stop lovin’, stop livin’—
But I don’t care! I’m still here!*
Take heart. If you are reading this, despite all temptations or provocations, you are still here. They have not got you yet and the good God and the cosmos love you: laugh, love, live.
Some folks face real suffering, most of us should not claim that mantle. Langston Hughes, the great American poet, did know genuine suffering. He dealt with pain, his great suffering, as people do through many ways, some good, some bad, but as a poet also in words.
The rest of us, who do not know similar injustices, can learn from Hughes. The greater always can teach the lesser, assuming we do not put on airs and believe we are “martyrs,” “persecuted,” of “suffering” when we live as we do in this great land with all the privileges some of us possess. This year, 2021, follows as years do 2020, and the popular thing is to call 2020 “the worst year.” This only means one has not suffered the 1453 as a Byzantine or 1918 as a Russian, the Trail of Tears, or the pandemic that snuffed out so many of my Nana’s generation.
Still small pains are real pains and our scars, even if gained outside a gulag, are scars. Houston is facing a “great freeze,” following Harvey, in a pandemic, with all the normal pains of life. What is to be done?
Unlike Hughes, uncertain theist, perhaps atheist, I turn to God, because Plato persuaded me God was real and experience confirmed the arguments. God is real and the source of joy. Yet there is also, God given even we do not acknowledge that gift, a certain human resilience. We need not give up. We need not let others belittle us or allow their betrayals to batter us. We do not have to give up, whine, or be defeated.
We are still here! We can have a party instead of a wake.
Time has a way of showing us that many of our hopes were fantasy. They end up gone with the wind. Meanwhile what nature does not do, people do: bullying, cheating, lying. We are conned by shysters in the pulpit, the professorate, and politics. We are belittled: souls created in the image of God.
Against all external, petty, judgment, sanction, and persecution, Hughes joyfully pointed out: “I’am still here.” He was a man.
Men are eternal beings. Nothing can destroy us. We endure in this life things that seem unendurable (that Hughes faced and I have not!) and can still grin, laugh, love, and live. Hell is serious, but men have jollification without end! I might add as Hughes might not** that the soul is immortal and so nobody can keep us from laughing, loving, living in the true Light. We are not just still here, but are going to be here in the presence of the eternal I AM- here without end.
Langston Hughes is my favorite American poet . . . since fifth grade! (This was one of the few things to come from that no-good year.) He always is worth reading.
*Hughes, Langston. Selected Poems of Langston Hughes (Vintage Classics) (pp. 118-121). Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group. Kindle Edition.
** I dare not judge the fraught question of Hughes views of Christianity over the course of his life.