Saturday, March 08, 2008

Rebecca Solnit's Acts of Hope

I was just sorting through the files on my laptop and I found this one article on Rebecca Solnit I had stored away a while back -- for re-reading.

Solnit is a writer-activists who has written several books, among them, Wanderlust: A History of Walking and River of Shadows: Eadweard Muybridge and the Technological Wild West -- all of them worthy examination of culture and society. In between, Solnit also throws in some beautitful writings.

I am re-reading her essay, Acts of Hope, which was written back in 2003 in response to US bombing of Iraq. She reminds fellow activists not to lose hope -- because activism is a leap into the dark. The essay was later expanded into a book, Hope in the Dark, which took its title from a line written by Virginia Woolf during World War I: "The future is dark, which is on the whole, the best thing the future can be, I think." In Solnit's interpretation, it is the darkness of the womb, not the grave. From the dark comes wild possibilites for change:

Writers understand that action is seldom direct. You write your books. You scatter your seeds. Rats might eat them, or they might just rot. In California, some seeds lie dormant for decades because they only germinate after fire. Sharon Salzberg, in her book Faith, recounts how she put together a book of teachings by the Buddhist monk U Pandita and consigned the project to the "minor-good-deed category." Long afterward, she found out that when Burmese democracy movement's leader, Aung San Suu Kyi, was kept isolated under house arrest by that country's dictators, the book and its instructions in meditation "became her main source of spiritual support during those intensely difficult years." Emily Dickinson, Walt Whitman, Walter Benjamin and Arthur Rimbaud, like Henry David Thoreau, achieved their greatest impact long after their deaths, long after weeds had grown over the graves of the bestsellers of their times. Gandhi's Thoreau-influenced nonviolence was as important in the American South as it was in India, and what transpired with Martin Luther King's sophisticated version of it has influenced civil disobedience movements around the world. Decades after their assassinations they are still with us.

4 comments:

Nymeth said...

I really like that idea. Once you write something, once you put it out there in the world, it will gain a life of its own, and you never know what it will achieve long after you're gone.

Dark Orpheus said...

NYMETH I really like that idea too. It's karma, really. And we plant good karma in the world without expectations, and just allow it to go where it needs to go.

Myrthe said...

I have Hope in the Dark on my TBR-pile, but I am reading a lot of non-fiction already for challenges, so I have a feeling I might not get to the book any time really soon. I did print out the essay and that I will read some time this week, maybe even this evening curled up in bed with tea.

Dark Orpheus said...

Myrthe I know what you mean about the TBR piles. But I hope you find something in the essay that will mov you.