well, you know, we all want to change the world
July 15, 2016 3:53 AM   Subscribe

The world feels pretty bleak at the moment. I am looking for songs and poems about hope.

I'm sure I don't need to detail all the ways in which the news is an endless parade of bad things right now. A lot of that is directly relevant to my professional life, so I can't just turn off the news altogether. On top of that, even when I'm just concentrating on the day-to-day work tasks, a lot of those are bleakly depressing because it involves working with people whose lives are bad, and/or affected by outside badness (poverty, prejudice, etc etc), in ways that don't make headlines but are still pretty awful. And while my own situation is not (currently?) all that bad, my resilience is running pretty low due to personal life crises of various kinds over the past few years.

So I am looking for poems and songs about hope. Little things I can read/listen to for a few minutes that'll make me feel a bit better about the future.

Angry protest songs are fine, but I am not really in a position where I can make big-system tear-down-the-barricades style changes to the world. I am lucky in that I do get to do the kind of work that tries to make positive change, but it's a matter of quietly slogging on to make people's lives incrementally less shit, in the face of a lot of things pushing in the other direction. So if there's stuff out there that can bring hope and optimism from that perspective, that would be great.
posted by Catseye to Grab Bag (29 answers total) 44 users marked this as a favorite
Best answer: A Brief for the Defence by Jack Gilbert is my favourite for hope in difficult times.
posted by crocomancer at 4:01 AM on July 15, 2016 [11 favorites]

Best answer: If you need a bit of a pep talk to keep doing what you're doing (which is awesome), try Go Do by Jonsi
posted by greenish at 4:18 AM on July 15, 2016

Best answer: Try to Praise the Mutilated World by Adam Zagajewski.
posted by Johnny Assay at 4:27 AM on July 15, 2016 [5 favorites]

Best answer: Love and Mercy by Brian Wilson

"Love and mercy to you and your friends tonight..."
posted by jilloftrades at 4:38 AM on July 15, 2016 [1 favorite]

Best answer: Sometimes
by Sheenagh Pugh

Sometimes things don't go, after all,
from bad to worse. Some years, muscadel
faces down frost; green thrives; the crops don't fail,
sometimes a man aims high, and all goes well.

A people sometimes will step back from war;
elect an honest man, decide they care
enough, that they can't leave some stranger poor.
Some men become what they were born for.

Sometimes our best efforts do not go
amiss, sometimes we do as we meant to.
The sun will sometimes melt a field of sorrow
that seemed hard frozen: may it happen for you.
posted by colfax at 4:47 AM on July 15, 2016 [9 favorites]

Best answer: Some of my favorite songs when I'm feeling like this:
- I Believe by REM
- Always Love by Nada Surf
- Peace Train by Yusef Islam
- (What's So Funny 'Bout) Peace, Love, and Understanding by Elvis Costello & the Attractions
posted by smirkette at 4:51 AM on July 15, 2016 [1 favorite]

Best answer: It's a bit of a cliche, but Ooh Child is my go-to for this.
posted by ArbitraryAndCapricious at 4:55 AM on July 15, 2016 [7 favorites]

Best answer: "Sun Is Gonna Shine" - Bright Star (Original Broadway Cast Recording) by Steve Martin and Edie Brickell
posted by roomthreeseventeen at 4:59 AM on July 15, 2016 [1 favorite]

Best answer: Maybe it is too directly political for what you're looking for but I have been listening to this lovely rendition of Lift Every Voice and Sing quite a lot recently.
posted by tivalasvegas at 5:30 AM on July 15, 2016

Best answer: since Gilbert & Zagajewski have already been mentioned, a few more:

Maggie Smith, "Good Bones" (this one's been slowly & steadily viral on social media lately)

Martín Espada, "Imagine the Angels of Bread" (pdf; I read this every year on New Year's Day)

Wendell Berry, "Manifesto: The Mad Farmer Liberation Front" (always)

W.S. Merwin, "Thanks" (if you take comfort in finding gratitude even while acknowledging everything's fucked)

Robert Hass's "The State of the Planet", which I can't find all of online, but you might try to see if you can read it via preview somewhere (it's in the book "Time & Materials")
posted by karayel at 5:39 AM on July 15, 2016 [2 favorites]

Best answer: Say Yes by Andrea Gibson
posted by anya32 at 6:03 AM on July 15, 2016

Best answer: It's an essay, but I've returned countless times to Howard Zinn's The Optimism of Uncertainty. An excerpt:

To be hopeful in bad times is not just foolishly romantic. It is based on the fact that human history is a history not only of cruelty but also of compassion, sacrifice, courage, kindness. What we choose to emphasize in this complex history will determine our lives. If we see only the worst, it destroys our capacity to do something. If we remember those times and places–and there are so many–where people have behaved magnificently, this gives us the energy to act, and at least the possibility of sending this spinning top of a world in a different direction. And if we do act, in however small a way, we don’t have to wait for some grand utopian future. The future is an infinite succession of presents, and to live now as we think human beings should live, in defiance of all that is bad around us, is itself a marvelous victory.
posted by veery at 6:03 AM on July 15, 2016 [2 favorites]

Best answer: Noah and the Whale - Blue Skies
posted by poppunkcat at 7:52 AM on July 15, 2016

Best answer: A topical poem that I saw recently and loved:

A Small Needful Fact, by Ross Gay

Is that Eric Garner worked
for some time for the Parks and Rec.
Horticultural Department, which means,
perhaps, that with his very large hands,
perhaps, in all likelihood,
he put gently into the earth
some plants which, most likely,
some of them, in all likelihood,
continue to grow, continue
to do what such plants do, like house
and feed small and necessary creatures,
like being pleasant to touch and smell,
like converting sunlight
into food, like making it easier
for us to breathe.
posted by ActionPopulated at 7:52 AM on July 15, 2016 [12 favorites]

Best answer: Baby Have Some Faith by 54-40
posted by tallmiddleagedgeek at 8:14 AM on July 15, 2016

Best answer: Garrison Keillor put together a solid poetry anthology, some of which involves hope, or at least words which plant the precursors to it: Good Poems for Hard Times
posted by iiniisfree at 8:35 AM on July 15, 2016

Best answer: Gerard Manley Hopkins, God's Grandeur and Carrion Comfort (which I like despite being an atheist)
posted by praemunire at 9:26 AM on July 15, 2016

Best answer: I have a ton of songs for this that I used to listen to when I was going through a period of depression. I can't remember most of them right now, but off the top of my head:

Hope by Twista and Faith Evans

Sunshine by Atmosphere

Poems! I have so many. A lot of my favorites are linked in my profile. Here are a few more:

So Much Happiness by Naomi Shihab Nye

It is difficult to know what to do with so much happiness.
With sadness there is something to rub against,
a wound to tend with lotion and cloth.
When the world falls in around you, you have pieces to pick up,
something to hold in your hands, like ticket stubs or change.
But happiness floats.
It doesn't need you to hold it down.
It doesn't need anything.
Happiness lands on the roof of the next house, singing,
and disappears when it wants to.
You are happy either way.
Even the fact that you once lived in a peaceful tree house
and now live over a quarry of noise and dust
cannot make you unhappy.
Everything has a life of its own,
it too could wake up filled with possibilities
of coffee cake and ripe peaches,
and love even the floor which needs to be swept,
the soiled linens and scratched records…..
Since there is no place large enough
to contain so much happiness,
you shrug, you raise your hands, and it flows out of you
into everything you touch. You are not responsible.
You take no credit, as the night sky takes no credit
for the moon, but continues to hold it, and share it,
and in that way, be known.

The Peace of Wild Things by Wendell Berry

When despair for the world grows in me
and I wake in the night at the least sound
in fear of what my life and my children’s lives may be,
I go and lie down where the wood drake
rests in his beauty on the water, and the great heron feeds.
I come into the peace of wild things
who do not tax their lives with forethought
of grief. I come into the presence of still water.
And I feel above me the day-blind stars
waiting with their light. For a time
I rest in the grace of the world, and am free.

The Laughing Heart by Charles Bukowski

your life is your life
don’t let it be clubbed into dank submission.
be on the watch.
there are ways out.
there is light somewhere.
it may not be much light but
it beats the darkness.
be on the watch.
the gods will offer you chances.
know them.
take them.
you can’t beat death but
you can beat death in life, sometimes.
and the more often you learn to do it,
the more light there will be.
your life is your life.
know it while you have it.
you are marvelous
the gods wait to delight
in you.

Welcome Morning by Anne Sexton

There is joy
in all:
in the hair I brush each morning,
in the Cannon towel, newly washed,
that I rub my body with each morning,
in the chapel of eggs I cook
each morning,
in the outcry from the kettle
that heats my coffee
each morning,
in the spoon and the chair
that cry "hello there, Anne"
each morning,
in the godhead of the table
that I set my silver, plate, cup upon
each morning.

All this is God,
right here in my pea-green house
each morning
and I mean,
though often forget,
to give thanks,
to faint down by the kitchen table
in a prayer of rejoicing
as the holy birds at the kitchen window
peck into their marriage of seeds.

So while I think of it,
let me paint a thank-you on my palm
for this God, this laughter of the morning,
lest it go unspoken.

The Joy that isn't shared, I've heard,
dies young.

Shoulders by Naomi Shihab Nye

A man crosses the street in rain,
stepping gently, looking two times north and south,
because his son is asleep on his shoulder.

No car must splash him.
No car drive too near to his shadow.

This man carries the world’s most sensitive cargo
but he’s not marked.
Nowhere does his jacket say FRAGILE,

His ear fills up with breathing.
He hears the hum of a boy’s dream
deep inside him.

We’re not going to be able
to live in this world
if we’re not willing to do what he’s doing
with one another.

The road will only be wide.
The rain will never stop falling.

(I hope you feel better soon)
posted by triggerfinger at 10:02 AM on July 15, 2016 [7 favorites]

Best answer: This little thought provided by Mr Rogers has comforted me so much in recent times. It's a wonderful practice to consciously turn your mind to those who are helping others.
posted by janey47 at 10:25 AM on July 15, 2016 [1 favorite]

Best answer: Anthem, by Leonard Cohen. The link is to a cover that I particularly love.
posted by janey47 at 10:33 AM on July 15, 2016

Best answer: My favorite poem of all time falls into this category. Make sure you read all the way to the end. It takes my breath away every time.

The Kids Who Die, by Langston Hughes

This is for the kids who die,
Black and white,
For kids will die certainly.
The old and rich will live on awhile,
As always,
Eating blood and gold,
Letting kids die.

Kids will die in the swamps of Mississippi
Organizing sharecroppers
Kids will die in the streets of Chicago
Organizing workers
Kids will die in the orange groves of California
Telling others to get together
Whites and Filipinos,
Negroes and Mexicans,
All kinds of kids will die
Who don’t believe in lies, and bribes, and contentment
And a lousy peace.

Of course, the wise and the learned
Who pen editorials in the papers,
And the gentlemen with Dr. in front of their names
White and black,
Who make surveys and write books
Will live on weaving words to smother the kids who die,
And the sleazy courts,
And the bribe-reaching police,
And the blood-loving generals,
And the money-loving preachers
Will all raise their hands against the kids who die,
Beating them with laws and clubs and bayonets and bullets
To frighten the people—
For the kids who die are like iron in the blood of the people—
And the old and rich don’t want the people
To taste the iron of the kids who die,
Don’t want the people to get wise to their own power,
To believe an Angelo Herndon, or even get together

Listen, kids who die—
Maybe, now, there will be no monument for you
Except in our hearts
Maybe your bodies’ll be lost in a swamp
Or a prison grave, or the potter’s field,
Or the rivers where you’re drowned like Leibknecht
But the day will come—
You are sure yourselves that it is coming—
When the marching feet of the masses
Will raise for you a living monument of love,
And joy, and laughter,
And black hands and white hands clasped as one,
And a song that reaches the sky—
The song of the life triumphant
Through the kids who die.
posted by decathecting at 10:38 AM on July 15, 2016 [4 favorites]

Response by poster: Thank you everyone. I wouldn't usually just Best Answer everything, but these are all so good, and so appreciated.
posted by Catseye at 1:51 PM on July 15, 2016

Best answer: Shed a Little Light (James Taylor)

Hope of Deliverance (Paul McCartney)

Graceland (Paul Simon)
posted by LingeringMoon at 3:09 PM on July 15, 2016 [1 favorite]

Best answer: The Frames - People All Get Ready
posted by yasaman at 5:44 PM on July 15, 2016 [1 favorite]

Best answer: And speaking of Glen Hansard, "may this Song of Good Hope walk with you through everything."
posted by soonertbone at 8:50 PM on July 15, 2016

Best answer: On Joy and Sorry
By Khalil Gibran

Then a woman said, Speak to us of Joy and Sorrow.
And he answered:
Your joy is your sorrow unmasked.
And the selfsame well from which your laughter rises was oftentimes filled with your tears.
And how else can it be?
The deeper that sorrow carves into your being, the more joy you can contain.
Is not the cup that holds your wine the very cup that was burned in the potter’s oven?
And is not the lute that soothes your spirit, the very wood that was hollowed with knives?
When you are joyous, look deep into your heart and you shall find it is only that which has given you sorrow that is giving you joy.
When you are sorrowful look again in your heart, and you shall see that in truth you are weeping for that which has been your delight.
Some of you say, “Joy is greater than sorrow,” and others say, “Nay, sorrow is the greater.”
But I say unto you, they are inseparable.
Together they come, and when one sits alone with you at your board, remember that the other is asleep upon your bed.

Verily you are suspended like scales between your sorrow and your joy.
Only when you are empty are you at standstill and balanced.
When the reassure-keeper lifts you to weigh his gold and his silver, needs must your joy or your sorrow rise or fall.
posted by zestful at 10:48 AM on July 16, 2016 [2 favorites]

Best answer: "Hold On" - Guster

"Hang on
Hang on
When all is shattered
When all your hope is gone
Who knows
How long
There's a twilight
A nighttime and a dawn."
posted by trillian at 9:31 PM on July 16, 2016

Heart of Gold by Neil Young, We Shall Overcome sung by Joan Baez and A Change Is Gonna Come by Sam Cooke are what I listen to when I need comfort in those situations.
posted by BlackBirdFly at 3:40 AM on July 17, 2016

I think you may have answered your own question.
posted by marguerite at 4:32 AM on November 3, 2016 [1 favorite]

« Older My friend is asking me for money   |   Be my shopping coach: casserole edition (not in US... Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.