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22 Hope For to him that is joined to all the living there is hope. ... Ecclesiastes 9: 4 When Prometheus gave heaven's fire to mortals, it made the Greek gods angry. They created a beautiful woman, Pandora, and sent her to earth with a closed box full of mischief, knowing her curiosity would eventually make her open it. Sure enough, after some years she peeked inside the box. War, Pestilence, and Hunger escaped, spreading around the world. She quickly slammed the lid, but too late. The damage had been done. Only one thing remained inside: Hope. ~My geography teacher in grade school told us that the primary necessities ofhuman life were food and shelter. My Sunday school instructor talked about the importance of hope. Corbett taught me that all three came from land and that the greatest of them was hope. "I hope we catch some fish today," he would say on our way to the Angelina River or to one of the pinewoods streams that fed it. My heart would race, and I would imagine a great fish plunging to the depths of a dark pool with my hook in its mouth. I would squirm anxiously on the seat of the'49 Ford pickup, squeezed in by Corbett, Fannie, and the black-knobbed floor shift. The pickup seemed painfully slow. It bounced over tree roots that erosion had exposed in the narrow road and sloshed through mudholes as it strained to reach the fishing hole. Then I left the Angelina country. My years in school accumulated, and soon everybody said my knowledge far surpassed Corbett's. I took ajob in town, and the check I got each month would have taken him a year to earn, sharpening saws. But something seemed amiss. Food had lost the flavor I remembered , and the rooms I inhabited looked out on treeless streets and smelled like carpet cleaner. The money coming in, which at first had generated anticipation, became expected, certain. Hope diminished. The head man of our company came around one day and said, look, we're going to give you part of the company. Here's a certificate for a thousand shares ofstock. I felt better and went back to work with renewed vigor. The company grew, and so did my pay. The head man called us all together and told about even greater opportunities in store. The bank had loaned the company more money, he said, and we had invested in a great new opportunity. 206 But the sure thing failed. The head man called us together again. He Hope poured himself a gin and tonic. Look, we're going bankrupt. We have to restructure. The stock certificates? Oh, well, they have no value now. You understand. ~Later on, I read about a story by Franz Kafka, the novelist, about a kind of hopelessness he called passive hope. A man comes to the door to heaven and asks admittance. He is told to wait, which he does, for days, then years. He repeatedly asks to enter, but the doorkeeper repeatedly says not yet. Finally, old and near death, the man finds the door suddenly shut in his face by the gatekeeper. The bureaucrats had the last word. The old man's entry did not fit their agenda. If the man had had the courage in his youth to disregard them, this act would have liberated him to pursue his own route to the shining palace. Instead, he waited on the word ofthe gatekeeper. I began to think about what had generated hope back in the Angelina country. Food comes from land, not grocery stores, Corbett had showed me. Feeding too habitually at the company table bears the risk of trading freedom for the promise of security and losing hope, I decided. I remembered the uncommon skill and pleasure Corbett and Fannie showed in getting food from the land about them. Each fresh hog track and each new seedling bursting from the soil kindled hope. Here's how you find a bee tree. We'll put honey out on this stump, come back after noon, and maybe find some bees on it. When one leaves, it may circle, but then it will head out on a line. Look, there goes one now! There's another one going in the same direction. Probably there's a tub ofhoney ifwe can find the tree. Let's go; it can't be far away! In those days I found myself forever trying to...


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MARC Record
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