All Things Are Possible

This thing you want to accomplish, it is
Not humanly attainable, it is an
Unreachable goal, it is no
Piece of cake, that’s for sure.

People tell you to believe in yourself;
Have faith in your abilities;
Think only the best thoughts;
Plant seeds of success in your mind;
Raise your sights and see possibilities.

But this thing you need to accomplish, it is
Insanely difficult. Jesus said,
“With God all things are possible.”
Even a mountain is no match;
Your faith, like a stick of dynamite, can
Blast it apart, pulverize it, reduce it to rubble.

This thing you want to accomplish?
You have every chance for success
If you trust God.

© 2016 Steven Barto

Monthly Book Review: “The Girl on the Train” by Paula Hawkins

“They are a perfect, golden couple,” Rachel Watson thinks, regarding handsome Jason and his striking wife, Jess. “He is dark-haired and well built, strong, protective, kind. He has a great laugh. She is one of those tiny bird-women, a beauty, pale-skinned with blond hair cropped short.” Rachel, the main narrator of Paula Hawkins’ novel The Girl on the Train, is obsessed with the pair. They represent to her the perfect relationship that she once had, or seemed to, before it imploded spectacularly.

She can’t stop thinking about Jason and Jess, but she doesn’t know them. She sees them through the window of a commuter train, one she takes each morning and evening on her commute to and from London. The couple, whose real names are Megan and Scott, live a few houses away from the one Rachel used to occupy, before her alcoholism poisoned her relationship with her husband, leading to divorce. “They’re a match, they’re a set,” Rachel reflects. “They’re happy, I can tell. They’re what I used to be, they’re Tom and me five years ago. They’re what I lost, they’re everything I want to be.”

On the train one day, Rachel sees Megan on her patio kissing an unknown man. The next day, Megan’s disappearance is announced on the news. Rachel jumps into the case head-first, offering herself to the police as a potential witness, and to Scott as an ally, but given her overt alcoholism and frequent lies about her life, comes to seem to the police and Scott like an unreliable narrator. On the night that Megan went missing, Rachel happened to have been drunk, possibly stalking her ex-husband and his new family. The problem: She can’t remember anything.

The point of view in The Girl on the Train alternates among three characters: luckless, obsessed Rachel; charming, complicated Megan; and Anna, the new love of Rachel’s ex-husband Tom. Alternating points of view is a tricky prospect. It can easily come off as unnecessary or gimmicky, but Hawkins uses the technique masterfully, giving just enough away in each chapter. None of the revelations in the book are tidy, and the picture gets much murkier before the mystery is resolved. Much of the complexity of the novel is due to Rachel, an exceptionally unreliable narrator with a tendency to pass out drunk, forgetting everything that happened the day before.

The writing is excellent, lending itself easily to cinematic style, so I was not surprised when I read last year that the book was on its way to the big screen. The story pays tribute to Hitchcock’s Strangers on a Train and Rear Window in the best possible way. The ending plays out like a movie scene. Although Hawkins has a well-established career as a journalist, this is her first novel. Not surprisingly, it debuted on the New York Times fiction best sellers list at number one. I rank this finely crafted novel right up there with The Lovely Bones, Gone Girl, and The Arsonist.

The Addicted Family

It is not surprising that the disease of addiction affects families too. They don’t sleep. They don’t eat. They become ill. They blame themselves. They feel rage, overwhelming worry, shame. Many people keep their suffering to themselves. If your child had cancer, the support from your friends and family would flood in. Because of the stigma of addiction, people often keep it quiet. Their friends and family may try to be supportive, but they may also communicate a subtle or unsubtle judgment.

Imagine the family of an addict as a mobile hanging from a ceiling. In the center is a paper-doll figure, which represents the addict. Smaller dolls float around the central figure. These smaller figures dangling off to the side represent siblings of the addict. They’re on the periphery, helpless, but inextricably tied to the moods and whims and drug-taking of the central figure. Two other figures hang precariously between the addict and his or her siblings. These are the parents. Sometimes, one of the parental figures hangs closer to the addict, seemingly between the addict and the other parent. This is the enabling parent, propping up what the addict does; making excuses; bending over backward. Yet trying to keep everyone all connected to one another.

The first thing for the parent to understand is it’s not their fault. There are addicts who were abused and addicts who, from all accounts, had ideal childhoods. Yet still many family members blame themselves. Another thing they do is try to solve it. They hide liquor bottles and medication and search for drugs in their loved one’s clothes and bedroom, and they drive the addict to AA or NA meetings. They try to control where the addict goes and what they do and who they hang out with. It’s understandable, but it’s futile. You cannot control an addict.

An addict can take over the family – take all of the parents’ attention, even at the expense of other children and of one’s spouse. Family members’ moods become dependent on how the addict is doing. People become obsessed. It’s understandable, but it’s harmful. They become controlling in ways that they never were before, because they are so afraid. People lose their identity because nothing matters except their addicted spouse or child or parent or whoever it is. There is no joy left in their life.

For all their tears and heartache and desperately good intentions, most families of addicts are defeated in the end. Addicts persist in their self-destructive, addictive behavior until something within themselves – something quite apart from anyone else’s efforts – changes so radically that the desire for the high is dulled and ultimately deadened by the desire for a better life. This was truly the situation in my family. Despite being able to quit drinking, smoking marijuana, and snorting cocaine, I struggled with an addiction to opioid painkillers. My family tried everything, including holding a family intervention. When I relapsed twice following a 21-day stay at a rehab facility, they washed their hands of me.

This does not mean that families have no role to play in the miraculous process of recovery. On the contrary, families can have a powerful impact on their addict’s struggle for recovery. Studies have shown that addicts who feel connected to a family that supports their recovery (even if that family is just one person) have a better chance of staying clean than those who believe that no one cares. However, there is a catch. The families themselves must be healthy if they hope to have a positive influence on their loved one. Although this may seem self-evident, it is easy for families to lose sight of this truth as the disease of addiction threatens their own mental health.

The process of addiction creates an alternative reality in the addict’s mind. Thinking becomes distorted and values get twisted as the search for the next high takes precedence over every other consideration. To this day, I find it hard to believe how I lost complete touch with God and with right behavior. I rationalized stealing and abusing narcotic pain medication because of the level of physical pain I was suffering, but I failed to see that I wanted to control my addiction. I wanted to have mastery over my pain. I didn’t want to “feel” anything, let alone constant physical anguish. Of course, as I sought to justify my continued drug use, I essentially put my pain under a magnifying glass.

The more enmeshed family members become in their addict’s life, the more twisted their thinking is likely to become. As a result, their efforts to help the addict grow increasingly futile, and their own well-being is compromised. A relationship that many professionals call co-dependency is established, harming both the addict and his or her family. To prevent this unhealthy relationship from occurring, or to extricate themselves from such a relationship, families must arm themselves with as much knowledge about addiction as possible. They must understand what they can do to support the recovery process and learn successful strategies for coping with addictive behaviors. They must recognize common mistakes that may actually prolong addiction and avoid getting trapped in unhealthy patterns.

I realize none of this is easy. Not for the addict. Not for the family. Addicts’ families walk an unhappy path that is strewn with many pitfalls and false starts. Mistakes are inevitable. Pain is inevitable. But so are growth and wisdom and serenity if families approach addiction with an open mind, a willingness to learn, and the acceptance that recovery, like addiction itself, is a long and complex process. Families should never give up hope for recovery. Nor should they stop living their own lives while they wait for that miracle of recovery to occur. For me, I have to be just as patient and understanding of my family’s need to pull away, recover, and heal as I need to give myself, if not more. Ultimately, both the family and the addict have to accept the things they cannot change, as well as courage to change the things they can.

Methamphetamine

The German chemist who first synthesized amphetamine, the forebear to methamphetamine, wrote in 1887, ” I have discovered a miraculous drug. It inspires the imagination and gives the user energy.” Amphetamine stimulates the part of the nervous system that controls involuntary activity – the action  of the heart and glands, breathing, digestive processes, and reflex actions. One effect is the dilation of the bronchial passages, which led, in 1932, to its initial medical use – as a nasal spray for the treatment of asthma. Later studies showed that the drug was also helpful in treating narcolepsy, calming hyperactive children, and suppressing the appetite. In addition, it enabled individuals to stay away for extended periods of time.

By experimenting with a simple change to the molecular structure of amphetamine, a Japanese pharmacologist first synthesized methamphetamine in 1919. It was more potent than amphetamine and easier to make, plus the crystalline powder was soluble in water, so it was possible to inject it. Methedrine, produced in the 1930s, was the first commercially available methamphetamine. In an inhaler, it was marketed as a bronchodilator; in pill form, as an appetite suppressant and stimulant. An ad read, “Never again feel dreary or suffer the blues.”

Meth was widely used in World War II by the Japanese, Germans, and U.S. military to increase their troops’ endurance and performance. Beginning in 1941, relatively mild formulations of methamphetamine were sold over the counter as Philopon and Sedrin. A typical advertising slogan: “Fight sleepiness and enhance vitality.” By 1948, these drugs were used in Japan by about 5 percent of the country’s sixteen- to twenty-five-year-olds. About fifty-five thousand people had symptoms of what doctors first termed meth-induced psychosis. They ranted and raved. They hallucinated. Some became violent. Mothers ignored or, in some cases, abused their babies.

in 1951, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration classified methamphetamine as a controlled substance. A prescription was required. According to a report published that year in Pharmacology and Therapeutics, methamphetamine was effective for “narcolepsy, post-encephalitic parkinsonism, alcoholism, certain depressive states, and obesity.”

The illegal speed craze, including crank, a meth derivative that is a pale yellow powder that is snorted, and crystal meth, a purer form, the first to be injected (it is snorted, too), hit in the early 1960s. Illicit meth labs emerged in San Francisco in 1962, and speed inundated the Haight Ashbury, presaging the first national epidemic in the middle of the late 1960s. David Smith, the physician who founded the Haight Ashbury Free Clinic, recalls the drug’s arrival to the neighborhood. “Before meth, we saw some bad acid trips, but the bad tripper was fairly mellow, whereas meth devastated the neighborhood, sent kids to the emergency room, some to the morgue. Meth ended the summer of love.”

Prior to founding the clinic, Dr. Smith had been a student up the hill from the Haight at the University of California Medical School. When the hospital emergency room began to see overdoses of this new drug, he started the first clinical research on its effects. He administered small doses to rats, and every one of them died of massive seizures. Rats caged together died when given even smaller doses of meth – the effect was quicker, and the cause of death changed. The rats had interpreted normal grooming behavior as an aggressive act, and, as Smith recalls, “they tore each other apart.”

In 1967, Smith came down from Parnassus Hill to work in the community. When he arrived in the Haight, he says, “I found a big rat cage – people shooting speed, up all night, paranoid, total insanity, violent, dangerous.” Smith issued the original “speed kills” warning in 1968 at a time of meth “shoot-offs” at the Crystal Palace, a bar. A circle of users passed around a needle. “I’d get calls at seven in the morning, when the guy who was the fastest draw was totally psychotic,” Smith remembers. The shared needles led to a hepatitis C epidemic. “When I warned the meth addicts about hep, they said, ‘Don’t worry. That’s why we put the yellow guy last.'”

Use of methamphetamine in America waned, waxed, and waned again since the drug’s initial heyday. Now many experts say that it’s more potent and pervasive than ever. Whereas a few years ago it was concentrated in western cities, meth has now crept across the country, inundating the Midwest, the South, and the East Coast. Meth us is an epidemic in many states, but the enormity of the problem has only recently been acknowledged in Washington, partly because of the lag between the time it took for the newest wave of addicts to fill up the nation’s hospitals, rehab facilities, and jails.

Meth users include men and women of every class, race, and background. Though the current epidemic has its roots in motorcycle gangs and lower-class rural and suburban neighborhoods, meth has basically marched across the country and up the socioeconomic ladder. Now, the most likely people and the most unlikely people take methamphetamine. Internationally, the World Health Organization estimates thirty-five million methamphetamine users compared to fifteen million for cocaine and seven million for heroin. The various forms of the drug go by many names, including crank, tweak, crystal, lith, Tina, gak, L.A.P., and speed. A particularly devastating form, ice, which is smoked like freebase cocaine, had rarely been seen in U.S. cities other than Honolulu, but it is now turning up on the mainland.

The most common form on the mainland is crystal, which is often manufactured with such ingredients as decongestants and brake cleaner in what the DEA has called “Beavis and Butthead” labs in homes and garages. Mobile, or “box,” labs in campers and vans, and labs in motels, have been discovered in every state. Home meth brewers get the drug’s key ingredient – pseudoephedrine – from nonprescription cold pills, prompting many states to initiate restrictions, including limits on the number of packages of Contac, Sudafed, and Drixoral that can be purchased at a time. As a result, the makers of these drugs are reportedly working to change the formulas so that they can no longer be used to make meth. In the meantime, a lot of pharmacy chains have moved them behind the counter.

From 1993 to 2005, the number of admissions to rehab for treatment of meth addiction more than quintupled, from twenty-eight thousand a year to about one hundred and fifty thousand, according to the National Institute on Drug Abuse. Crime rises dramatically in communities inundated with meth. Eighty to 100 percent of crime in some cities is meth-related. In some states, law enforcement officials have attributed increased murder rates to the drug. In cities where meth is the predominant drug problem, there are high incidences of spousal and child abuse – indeed, tragic stories of child abuse are common.

As many as half of all meth users, and a large percentage of ice users, tweak. That is, at some point they experience the type of meth psychosis first identified in Japan in the late 1940s. It is characterized by auditory and visual hallucinations, intense paranoia, delusions, and a variety of other symptoms, some of which are indistinguishable from schizophrenia. The hyperanxious state of tweaking can lead to aggression and violence, hence the following, from a report for police on how to approach meth addicts: “The most dangerous stage of meth abuse for abusers, medical personnel, and law enforcement is called tweaking. A tweaker is an abuser who probably has not slept in 3-15 days and is irritable and paranoid. Tweakers often behave or react violently. Detaining a tweaker alone is not recommended and law enforcement officers should call for backup.”

Tweaking or not, meth addicts are more likely than other drug users (with the possible exception of crack addicts) to engage in antisocial behavior. A successful businessman took the drug to work longer hours, became addicted, and murdered a man who owed him drugs and money. An addict shot his wife, another fatally bludgeoned his victim, and another murdered a couple for a car and seventy dollars. A couple, both meth abusers, beat, starved, and then scalded their four-year-old niece, who died in a bathtub. A Pontoon Beach, Illinois, man was under the influence of meth when he murdered his wife and then killed himself. In Portland,  a woman on meth was arrested for killing her eighteen-month-old child, strangling her with a scarf. In Texas, a man high on meth, after arguing with a friend, tracked him down and murdered him – shooting him six times in the head. An Omaha man was recently sentenced to forty years for murdering his girlfriend’s child after shooting meth. The child had been smothered and had numerous broken bones. A mother in Riverside County, California, was accused of murdering her baby because she nursed him while on meth. During her trial, she said, “I woke up with a corpse.”

 

  • People with addiction should not be blamed for suffering from the disease. All people make choices about whether to use substances. However, people do not choose how their brain and body respond to drugs and alcohol, which is why people with addiction cannot control their use while others can. People with addiction can still stop using – it’s just much harder than it is for someone who has not become addicted.
  • People with addiction are responsible for seeking treatment and maintaining recovery. Often they need the help and support of family, friends and peers to stay in treatment and increase their chances of survival and recovery.

 

Some people maintain that designating addiction as a brain disease rather than a behavioral disorder gives addicts, whether they are using alcohol, crack, heroin, meth, or prescription drugs, an excuse to relapse. Alan I. Leshner, former director of NIDA who is now the chief executive officer of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, agrees that addicts should not be let off the hook. “The danger in calling addiction a brain disease is people think that makes you a hapless victim,” wrote Dr. Leshner in Issues In Science and Technology in 2001. “But it doesn’t. For one thing, since it begins with a voluntary behavior, you do, in effect, give it to yourself.”

Dr. Volkow, NIDA’s current director, disagrees. “If we say a person has heart disease, are we eliminating their responsibility? No. We’re having them exercise. We want them to eat less, stop smoking. The fact that they have a disease recognizes that there are changes, in this case, in the brain. Just like any other disease, you have to participate in your own treatment and recovery. What about people with high cholesterol who keep eating French fries? Do we say a disease is not biological  because it’s influenced by behavior? No one starts out hoping to become an addict; they just like drugs. No one starts out hoping for a heart attack; they just like fried chicken. How much energy and anger do we want to waste on the fact that people gave it to themselves? It can be a brain disease and you can have given it to yourself and you personally have to do something about treating it.”

Direct link to: National Institute on Drug Abuse

Drug Addiction and our Youth

There’s ample evidence that many youth use drugs to self-medicate for depression, anxiety, and fear, not to mention a host of mental-health disorders. The drugs they take may become the focal point for both kids and their parents, but they may be masking deeper problems. How can a parent know? Parents consult expert after expert, but even the experts don’t necessarily know either. Diagnosis isn’t an exact science, and it’s complicated, particularly for adolescents and young adults, for whom mood changes, including depression, are common. Many symptoms of these disorders appear to be identical to some of the symptoms of drug abuse. Also, by the time experts finally figure out that there’s a problem, drug addiction may have exacerbated the underlying mental health ailment and fused with it. It becomes impossible to know where one leaves off and the other begins. This is frequently referred to by professionals as “double trouble.”

“Considering the level of maturity of young adolescents, the availability of drugs, and the age at which drugs are first used, it is not surprising that a substantial number of them develop serious drug problems,” writes Robert Schwebel, PhD, in Saying No is Not Enough. “Once this happens, the effects are devastating. Drugs shield children from dealing with reality and mastering developmental tasks crucial to their future. The skills they lacked that left them vulnerable to drug abuse in the first place are the very ones that are stunted by drugs. They will have difficulty establishing a clear sense of identity, mastering intellectual skills, and learning self-control. The adolescent period is when individuals are supposed to make the transition from childhood to adulthood. Teenagers with drug problems will not be prepared for adult roles. They will chronologically mature while remaining emotional adolescents.”

My exposure to theories of development while studying psychology at the University of Scranton in the early 1980s, as well as in current psychology courses at Colorado Christian University, tells me that children’s brains are at their most malleable – that is, the greatest change takes place – before they are two years old and then again when they are teenagers. The worst time for a person to be tampering with their brain is when they are a teenager. Drugs radically alter the way teenagers’ brains develop. Experience and behavior help to set up a cycle that may deepen emotional problems. The biological infrastructure that develops as a result may become more acute and more intractable. It enforces and reinforces the psychological problems, which become more firmly established. Treating people whose drug use began when the were teenagers, as did mine, is further complicated because deconstructing or rerouting established pathways have biological as well as emotional and behavioral roots.

To understand the risks associated with psychoactive substances in adolescents, it helps to understand that teenagers are not just less-experienced adults; they are undergoing an important yet challenging developmental stage in which they are prone to errors of judgment, and sensitive to neurological assault by drugs and psychoactive substances. More than any other age group, adolescents are at risk for substance addiction, and, more than any other age group, they risk permanent intellectual and emotional damage due to the effects of drugs.

Obviously, the human brain is sculpted by experience, which is processed primarily by the pre-frontal cortex. This area of the brain executes such skills as setting priorities, formulating strategies, allocating attention, and controlling impulses. The outer mantle of the cortex is involved with processing abstract information and understanding rules, laws and codes of social interaction. Teenagers are notorious for their obsession with social interaction, as well as for making up social rules and breaking them. They are merely testing limits. As teenagers grow into young adults, they often exhibit a fascination with abstract thinking on topics like history, culture, and media, which demonstrates their growing ability to understand the larger world. While the teenage brain is in some ways ill-equipped to make decisions and choices without the help of trusted adults, it is perfectly designed for the types of intellectual and social challenges teenagers most need to master.

Still, development of fully mature complex thinking takes a long time. MRI studies show that the development of the pre-frontal cortex and outer mantle of the brain continues into the early 20s, and may not be completed until the mid 20s. There are many ways that psychoactive substances can alter or damage the development of the adolescent brain. Psychoactive substances often target and alter the function of neurotransmitters, which are chemical messengers that allow nerves to communicate with each other. Interference with neurotransmitters can directly damage fragile developing neural connections. More importantly, drug and alcohol use alters perception, and may interfere with developing perceptual skills. Habits and choices associated with the use of drugs and alcohol slowly become ingrained into the wiring of the brain. Repeated action becomes habit, and the habits of thought, perception, and reasoning developed in childhood and adolescence can stay with a person throughout his or her lifetime. My addiction began at the vulnerable young age of 18. I continued to abuse drugs and alcohol throughout nearly forty years of my life.

As many mental health professionals are quick to point out, if you do something for long enough it becomes automatic. Nowhere does this wisdom more hold true than in teens and young adults. Though teens may change clothes, ideas, friends and hobbies with maddening frequency, they are busily developing ideas about themselves, their world, and their place in it that will follow them for the rest of their lives. Adults may spend years trying to create or break even the simplest habit, yet most adults find that their most profound ideas about themselves and the world were developed in high school or college. This is because, by age 25 or so, the brain is fully developed, and building new neural connections is a much slower process.

Early detection and treatment is essential to heading off the development of substance addiction in adolescents. Given their brain development, teenagers cannot be expected to understand the full range of consequences in their choices regarding drugs and alcohol. The disease must be prevented, and where it cannot be prevented it must be arrested while there is still time for a full recovery.

O God, that men should put an enemy in their mouths to steal away their brains! That we should, with joy, pleasance, revel, and applause, transform ourselves into beasts. – Wm. Shakespeare.

Dope Slinger

I was twelve when I first met him
As he sat in his Ford Gran Torino,
Canary yellow to be specific,
A Glock 40 on his lap.
He was calm, almost polite,
With a wry smile. I couldn’t
Help but be distracted by the
Long, ugly scar on his left cheek,
Extending nearly to his Adam’s apple.
I was too scared to ask him what happened.
He said, “Whachu want?”
I told him, “You know. Chiva.”
How much, little man?”
I realized for a hot second that he
Didn’t care I was only 12.
Why would that matter to a dope slinger?

©2016 Steven Barto

“Threshold” by Ocean Vuong

In the body where everything has a price,
I was a beggar. On my knees,
I watched through the keyhole, not
the man showering, but the rain
falling through him: guitar strings snapping
over his globed shoulders.
He was singing, which was why
I remember it. His voice –
it filled me to the core
like a skeleton. Even my name
knelt down inside me, asking
to be spared.
He was singing. It’s all I remember.
For in the body, where everything has a price,
I was alive. I didn’t know the cost
of entering a song – was
to lose your way back.
I lost it all with my eyes
wide open.

Pride Can Halt Recovery

In light of the continuing local and national headlines regarding heroin overdose rates and chronic abuse of opioid painkillers such as Vicodin and Percocet, I felt it was necessary to reblog my post from April of this year.

The Accidental Poet

With all the interest in self-esteem and self-worth, there is another element to think about when we consider pride. Some of us come from families where we were not taught healthy emotional language and habits. We did not get a balanced perspective on the world and on relationships. Some of us actually got a distorted view of where we stood in relation to the rest of the world. We felt less than. In order to make up for that, we learned to exaggerate and lie and blow our accomplishments way out of proportion in order to feel of some value. To  succeed in our recovery and in life, we have to stop thinking we are worth less than others. We need to see the glass half full instead of half empty. We have to get rid of feelings of inability before we can make progress. As we learn more…

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Ethereal

Ethereal is, by its very concept, untouchable;
It is something that is out of reach;
It is pure, beautiful, unattainable.

It has been defined by some as aloof,
But I believe that to be an unfair characterization.
It is too much like, well, an assignment of value.

It would be a mistake to consider ethereal
To be haughty or standoffish;
It has no pride, no emotion, no empathy.

It is impalpable, created through poetic
Imagination, reaching far above this physical world;
It is without a corporeal body.

It is extremely delicate, highly refined,
And lighter than air; it is heavenly,
Beyond the bounds of what we call atmosphere.

It is not superior, but it does exceed and surpass;
It is elsewhere, and yet it is near. It is bodiless,
formless and spiritual, but vital to serenity.

It is airy, intangible and celestial.
It is, ultimately, the supernatural
happiness of a quiet death.

© 2016 Steven Barto

“Tomorrow’s Child” by Rubin Alves

I found the following poem by Rubin Alves in  a collection titled “Teaching With Fire: Poetry That Sustains the Courage to Teach,” edited by Sam M. Intrator and Megan Scribner.  This poem did what all poets hope will occur: It struck a cord deep within my soul. It reached a part of me I thought had died. I love the line “Suffering without hope produces resentment and despair.” Also, “We must live by the love of what we will never see. That is the secret discipline.”

What is hope?
It is the pre-sentiment that imagination
is more real and reality is less real than it looks.
It is the bunch that the overwhelming brutality
of facts that oppress and repress us
is not the last word.
It is the suspicion that reality is more complex
than the realists want us to believe.
That the frontiers of the possible are not
determined by the limits of the actual;
and in a miraculous and unexplained way
life is opening up creative events
which will open the way to freedom and resurrection,
but the two – suffering and hope –
must live from each other.
Suffering without hope produces resentment and despair.
But, hope without suffering creates illusions, naivete
and drunkenness.
So let us plant dates
even though we who plant them will never eat them.
We must live by the love of what we will never see.
That is the secret discipline.
It is the refusal to let our creative act
be dissolved away by our need for immediate sense experience
and it a struggled commitment to the future of our grandchildren.
Such disciplined hope is what has given prophets, revolutionaries and saints,
the courage to die for the future they envisage.
They make their own bodies the seed of their highest hopes.