Acts of Resilience and Hopefulness

We were down in southeastern Massachusetts for a couple of days this week. Many trees had leafed out, flowers were abloom everywhere, and the birds’ dawn chorus was magnificent. The world was an intense vernal green, vibrant and noisy, reminding me of spring as a child in rural England; I was embedded in sweet recollection, fragrant and surprisingly tactile.

In the small Japanese garden in my in-laws’ back yard stands a fine flowering cherry which filled the sun room with a soft pink floral presence. The cherry, a welcome presence, watchful and awake, swayed ever so seductively in the gentlest of sea breezes, casting shadow plays against the room’s walls.

This week I also found myself engaged in conversations, with clients and others, concerning whether making art and engaging in psychotherapy make sense in this difficult time. Repeatedly the conversation hung on reminiscences of hiding under school desks during air raid drills. Such memories bring with them an intense sense of the futility which hung then in the classroom air, along with irony and a terrible sense of foreshortening and futility.  They arise now, as the world appears to be sliding yet again towards the unthinkable.

As has happened repeatedly since the election, I listened as clients, colleagues, and friends questioned the value of working to soothe deep hurts, write poems, or make art. By midweek I found myself fervently insisting that engaging in therapy and art making, in all its myriad forms, are not only worthwhile endeavors in difficult times, but powerful acts of resistance and hopefulness. It seems to me that each is, at least potentially, a way of caring for the world, others, and the self, and of bringing to the fore joy and beauty. Thus each holds great and lasting value.

I believe there is a real possibility, even likelihood, that caring for the soul and dancing with creativity embolden us to care more for others and for the fragile, glowing world that is our home. They stand in ever sharpening contrast to life styles and ideologies that favor the accumulation of wealth through the destruction of all that is most precious, and hold the promise of continuity and renewal, a bright hope that pushes back the shadows of hatred and environmental and nuclear threat, and opens the door to beauty, affection, and joy.

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8 thoughts on “Acts of Resilience and Hopefulness

  1. It is difficult to keep operating in the capital ‘s’ Self consciousness while others, especially in leadership positions, focus on the lowercase self, the ego. More than ever, modeling lives of Self consciousness can provide a contrast to self-interest. That Self is the soul, connected to the Universe, full of wisdom, joy, beauty, truth and resonating with the seasons. Keep living and modeling that, Michael. You are doing great artwork!

  2. Beautiful photos Michael and nice to see, that you also enjoy the beauty in the spring 🙂
    I do believe in karma, whatever we send out, will come back, sometimes as a boomerang other times it demands more time.
    The more of us, who work hard to send out positive vibrations in all we think and do, the better a world we will get.
    Sometimes it seems like necessary, that something bad happens, before humans wake up and look around to see, what is going on in our world. This can be the call, that will set more humans to stand together and fight for our world in a better way, that usual through many years.
    Wish you a wonderful weekend.

  3. I know we were taught all wrong and have it all backwards. Our art leanings are our purposes foundations. If only we were taught that instead of ‘how ya going to make a living to pay the heat bill’? It seems to me all the art therapies ever growing now are in recognition of that core purpose and getting to it untwists all our anxieties and regrets. Your post has really got me thinking… – creatively! 🙂

    • Oh, yes! Still, I love working with my students as we think together about how they can make art AND pay the bills. I also remind them that the creative economy continues to grow, but requires creativity and much networking to access and maintain. I also tell worried parents to simply be supportive, offer real world advice when applicable and see what happens.

  4. Lovely and profound reflections, Michael. I know that writing and photography, amateurish though my attempts are, have opened my heart and eyes to things I might not otherwise see. Art informs my teaching, gives me new tools to use, and helps me open up new ways of encouraging students to be present and think critically.If art rekindles one person’s hope, raises one person’s awareness to the beauty of the world, then it’s time well-spent from my humble perspective.

    • Hi Carol, first let me question your use of amateurish in regards your photos and writing. Wow, I have never thought of your work as anything but polished and engaging! So I’m surprised to hear that you see it otherwise. Then again, I guess we are mostly our own most ruthless critics….. Anyway, your work engages me in deep thought, and I imagine your students have a similar experience, that is if they let themselves.

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