Not, I’ll not, carrion comfort, Despair, not feast on thee;I studied those words of Gerard Manley Hopkins in high school and wonder now what sense I could have made of them then. How, protected from any of life’s arrows, I could have grasped anything of the anguish and triumph in those words.
Not untwist – slack they may be – these last strands of man
In me or, most weary, cry I can no more. I can;
Can something, hope, wish day come, not choose not to be.
Will you indulge me in a little paraphrasing …?
To give in to despair is an empty comfort, like feasting on a rotting corpse. I will not accept that option. Even though I am hanging on to whatever it means to be human by no more than an unravelling thread, I WILL NOT let go. I will not say “I can’t go on”. I can go on. I can at least take one more step forward. I can last the night and hope for a better day ahead. I will not give up.Even though my marriage has ended as roadkill, the fly-blown carcass of my dreams will not define who I am or dictate what I will do next.
The concept of Despair has captured my interest ever since reading the words of Stephen Donaldson, in a commentary on his own “Chronicles of Thomas Covenant” novels – “In reality as in dreams, what matters is the answer we find in our hearts to the test of Despite.” I wish I could write a book that expounds on that brief sentence, but in the end it would be a dry discourse that did no more than point to the astounding insights in the parable Donaldson has already written. In the series of novels, virtually every character faces Despite – despair personified – in their own way, whether it be giving up, maintaining an allegiance to some law or vow, fighting to the death, or sacrificing themselves. I am forced to ask myself how I will deal with Despite.
“Despair”, said someone to me, “is a Western luxury.” Can’t recall if they were African or perhaps South American, but the point was that in their context, there is no option but to struggle, to live, to continue. One cannot collapse in self-pity because it would achieve nothing. In a Xhosa song I wish I had the lyrics for, the guiding theme is that no matter what befalls us, we will walk, we will walk, and we will keep walking.