May 16, 2020

Dear Hope Nation,

I’ve been accused, often rightly, of cynicism. No matter how fluttering the eyelids of the person telling me that astrology is based on research, that lines on my palm really do predict (or determine) my future, that tarot cards are a way for me to analyze my love life, I think it’s bunk. In the words of H.L. Mencken, one of my favorite philosophers, “We are here and it is now. Further than that, all human knowledge is moonshine.” Lacking the symbolism of delivering his own funeral oration before throwing himself into his funeral pyre at the Olympic Games in 165, Mencken is the greatest cynical philosopher since Peregrinus.

I’ve also been accused, sometimes rightly, of being naïve. Of believing that good begets good, that kindness spreads like a dye packet in a pool, that generosity is its own reward. I do believe these things, but not out of a child-like guilelessness; they’ve borne themselves out in situation after situation. As long as my motives are relatively pure, I’ve found doing the right thing is not only best for my soul, it’s best for me as a whole.

As alluded to above, most occult practices draw out only my cynicism. It’s none of my business whether you want to live your by divining the future from cards, palms or stars; as for me and my house, we will live in an ordered and rational universe without secret passages into the mystical. As a matter of balance, I want to identify a part of the universe that pulls exclusively from my unjaded nature. One does exist.

Art is my place of innocent delight. I experience without guile or suspicion one human being’s expression of existence through music, poetry, painting, sculpting, writing, dancing, et cetera, et cetera. I am not responsible for the outpouring of painting at Hope, but I encourage it in any and every way I can. Likewise with the Hope Ensemble, with an upcoming joint effort with the Manchester Community School of Music. I’m not a good painter, although I love painting, and I am no musician at all. Still, this awakening of art at Hope makes me happier than I can ever adequately express.

Tonight from 7:30 to 9:00 pm, you can participate in another ongoing renaissance at Hope. Sicker than Most (https://us02web.zoom.us/j/85272446975) is a perfect marriage of the punk/diy/hootenanny aesthetic—people making music, reading poetry, doing standup, juggling for the sake of doing it, of sharing who we are and what we care about.

I love all the performances at Sicker than Most. Really. I love hearing Andy, whether as The Big Andizzle or, especially, Raggety Andy. I love hearing Natalie and Justin and Country and Bionic and all the other musicians. I absolutely love Duke’s skewering of everything and his belly tattoo. These are all gifted artists, and they deserve all the plaudits they get.

Honestly, though, my heart is even more lifted by folks who are a little off-center, whether a Bruce Springsteen lip-syncer, a juggler or a 59-year-old guy doing standup on his birthday eve, just to fulfill a childhood goal. (That last guy may be reading some poetry tonight.)

Most compelling for me, though, is Sicker than Most’s ethos of appreciation, of more than polite applause but of true acclamation of all performers. I remember hearing a girl just days out of rehab, reading from her poetry journal, and being held in the hand of recovery by the gathered crowd. You can be part of that, and you don’t want to miss that opportunity to show that

You matter. I matter. We matter.

Keith

Painting by D.A.M.

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