I’m missing Mr. Havel since the announcement of his death this week, his observant eye and sharp tongue. In my years of living in and traveling the East Bloc, he was one of a group of intellectuals and writers whose convictions about freedom and truth inspired me, along with their willingness to be imprisoned for them. He always made clear he was an accidental activist, an artist who rebelled against the banality of a system that forced people to live a lie. He seemed to suggest if he could do it – anyone could.
In these days of being urged to Occupy Something, he occupied words. He knew the power of language and said, “I really do inhabit a system in which words are capable of shaking the entire structure of government, where words can prove mightier than ten military divisions.” In plays, in poems, in novels, Eastern European intellectuals like Havel did as the Biblical prophets did, using subversive speech to name an alternate reality, and thereby overcoming the reality imposed by their oppressors.
Thank you, Mr. Havel, for rising to the challenges of your time and leaving me the hope that we can do so in ours.
“The kind of hope that I often think about…I understand above all as a state of mind, not a state of the world. Either we have hope within us, or we don’t. It is a dimension of the soul
It’s not essentially dependent upon some particular observation of the world or estimate of the situation.
Hope is not the conviction that something will turn out well, but the certainty that something makes sense, regardless of how it turns out.”