Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Dangling Carrots

"..and you can dangle your carrot
but I ain't gunna reach for it
cuz I need both my hands
to play my guitar.."

Ani Difranco
lyrics from "The Million You Never Made"

I once had a conversation with a man who was trying to overcome a terrible drug addiction.  We sat in the dark, and he suddenly asked me what I hoped for in my life.  At the time, he had been clean for almost a month, but he pointed out there had been other times, other attempts made, when he had abstained from his drug of choice only to find himself using again.  It wasn't only the drugs, he said, it was an entire way of living.  His "friends" would call, voices of temptation...people who knew what he was trying to do, but they'd make fun of him, or get angry, silkily attacking his manhood, making him out to be a coward.  He said he knew he needed to remove himself from them, find new people to be with.  Yet all he felt when he did so was lonely. 

It was a terrible battle he waged.  One in which, I knew, he secretly despaired of ever winning.  I felt the weariness in his soul, a spirit of hopelessness laying in wait, hanging out on the edges with clutching fingers, ready to consume.  I asked him, "What is your dream.  What is your hope?"  Without any hesitation he answered, "I want gray hair."  I faced him then and asked, "Gray hair?  That is your hope?"  He cast his eyes down, suddenly embarrassed, and quietly said, "My dream is to someday see gray hair on my head when I look in the mirror, because that will mean I made it.  It'll mean I overcame these drugs, and lived to be an old man." 

Like stars, his words hung in the dark.  I knew they had been uttered from the depth of his heart.  I felt the innocent truth of them take wing like delicate wisps.  I caught them, and held them gently in my hand, added the strength of my faith to them, and whispered, "Let it be," then blew them upward to Spirit.

I knew this man for only a day, our ships passing by each other for one brief moment.  But he lives on in my heart, periodically coming to mind, and when I think of him, I renew my faith in his vision.  Let it be.

Our hopes, our dreams, are so precious.  I wonder sometimes how humanity can either disregard them in another and in themselves, so blatantly, devaluing the person they live in, or play on them, try to use them for their own benefit.  There are those who know of our hope, from individuals and families, to corporations, and will present themselves in such a way as to dangle the fulfillment of that hope before us, using our hope against us, playing it.  Treating our hope like a drug, and they are the dealer, cheapening it, while in the background, in secret, they have no intention of fulfilling it.  They say all the right words, drawing us in, while never quite giving anything back.  The only time they give is when their instincts tell them their control over us is slipping.  They rush in with goodwill, or hurt feelings, talking beautiful, empty words.. effectively.  Working it, making it appear as if it is we who are in the wrong.  Undermining.  And so we doubt.

I walk this world, and see people, fellow humans, who are struggling, trying to survive, while a corporation offers work, temporarily.  They reel them in, these people who need work, who are so willing to work, dangling the carrot of a permanent position, while having a system in play that sets up failure.  "Aw, you didn't make it?  Well, come back the next time we're hiring...you're a good worker.  We'd love to have you back."  Meanwhile, they give the barest minimum, while asking us to give our all.  And we do, because we need the work, and want that steady paycheck coming in.  While the corporation steadily makes millions off our back.

I see a young couple, trying to make it on their own, struggling, with their extended family not talking to them, or not willing to help, because they didn't do what the family wanted.  In the background is the message, and has always been the message, "Do what we want you to do, be who we want you to be, and we'll give you all our love, and all the material good that goes with it"...yet never quite doing it, never quite giving it... The young couple made a different choice, their hopes and dreams lay elsewhere, and the family seeks to punish.  Now and again, the family dangles a carrot, "If you come back, we'll help you, we'll give to you."  The family wants them to fail.  How can that be?

Is it any wonder we are tempted to lose hope?  Is it any wonder we begin to feel beaten down, and go to the "fuck it" place when it appears there is no one who gives a rats ass to support our hopes and dreams?  Is it any wonder we turn around and become that which we hate?  When in Rome...do as the Romans do.

Don't you see?  Our hope is the most valuable, and powerful thing we have.  The drug dealers recognize it, the corporations recognize it, our screwed up families recognize it, and either feel threatened by it, or seek to benefit from it.  Love and hope are so closely bound, there is no separating them.  Grab hold with both hands, and care for your hope.  Treat it as you would a baby.  Safe guard it, bundle it up and keep it warm, feed it, nurture it, until one day it grows up to be set loose on the world.  And when it is, when the potential of it becomes noticed, don't sell it.  Don't ever sell it.  It is your inheritance.  Treat the vision of it as a promise given to you...and now go put effort in fulfilling it.  Only you can. 

Let it be.


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