Cooperstown Crier - Your Source for Hometown News - Cooperstown, Baseball Hall of Fame

From Fly Creek

April 17, 2014

There's reason to hope


Ninety years later, the question remains tragically apt. But these days, I see more in the poem, especially at Christmas time. The link for me is in that last line: “Hoping it may be so.”

Last Saturday Anne and I caroled with other Fly Creekers during the Cooperstown Christmas Walk. (Other groups were strolling the candle-lit streets, too; and some had better costumes and arguably better pitch than ours, but never mind.)

Among our noels was “O Little Town of Bethlehem,” a carol often dismissed as sentimental, even syrupy. (That’s mostly the traditional melody’s fault.) But a close look at its first verse undercuts that judgment. The carol carries a strong and realistic Christmas message - one, as later poets have said, that has been lost behind the “rock-candy glare” and the “plastic Babes in Manger.”

The carol says that two awesome forces converge at Christmas: “the hopes and fears of all the years.” (The fears, mind you, not just of two thousand years ago, but of every age before and since.) It’s not hard to list those fears. They are born from our human skill to imagine the future and to worry.

Topping the list of fears is, of course, death - our own and our loved ones’. And following physical death are all the lesser deaths that erode the human spirit: injustice, illness, accident, danger of every sort; loss of job, income, home, friends, reputation - and even the ravaging of Earth by our own selfishness.

But Christmas counters all that. Whether we humans take the old, old story as fact or myth, we are moved by how it embodies our deepest, strongest wish: for hope in the face of fears. Each age offers its own grim proof that we just can’t make it on our own; and so we want help, from outside and above the human arena. We want meaning, purpose, ultimate release, even from death. And that’s the promise in the old, old story: Creation’s author enters human affairs, enters humanity itself, to give us hope.

Text Only
From Fly Creek
  • A banner time for Jim Atwells Tim Wiles urged me on. "You'll get a column out of it," he said.

    August 21, 2014

  • Spangled with debate over anthem What fun! Cathe Ellsworth and I are back to playing badminton, lobbing columns back and forth across the Crier's net. My serve:

    August 7, 2014

  • From word to phrase to sentence As usual, Dennis Savoie started it. Old friends, we long ago discovered our mutual interest in oddities of words and language usage. His most recent challenge to me: Is our flag properly called "spangled" with stars?

    July 24, 2014

  • 'They were out of step but Jim!' All right, skip the drolleries about the headline. The quote is actually the title of a 1918 song by Irving Berlin, who, with George M. Cohan and other songsmiths, was producing patriotic pieces by the dozen as the Yanks were going "Over There!"

    June 19, 2014

  • Replanting has taken root Lots of boxes still to be unpacked and stuff to be put on shelves and into closets, but Anne's and my shift into Cooperstown is almost done. We're securely replanted at 24 Delaware Street and already feeling at home.

    May 8, 2014

  • There's reason to hope I hadn't planned this piece for my April column, but something happened that was impossible to ignore. Within a week, three different friends (count them, three!) from different parts of the country emailed to say they'd come across an old Crier column that they'd saved for twelve years and had sent to many friends because it meant much to them.

    April 17, 2014

  • Let not thy left hand know That headline's a Bible allusion, trenchant advice not to preen when doing good: "But when thou doest alms, let not thy left hand know what thy right hand doeth." Amen, I say.

    March 6, 2014

  • How good to be back! "Tis I, the Spirit of a Thousand Columns Past, back after a twelve-month silence to talk at you again in the flesh!"

    January 2, 2014

  • Mammon Triumphs in Turkey Bowl Editor's Note: We're thrilled to announce the return of our columnist, Jim Atwell, and his legendary column "From Fly Creek." Jim's column will be an occasional feature, when he is able to write or he has something he wants to contribute. We celebrate his return with one of his classic columns.

    December 5, 2013

  • Rolling toward a stop I’m slowing down, friends, rolling toward a stop for this column. The best way to describe my reason is through an analogy: I want you to think of me as a horse-drawn wagon and driver â€" not just as the driver, but as the whole shebang.

    December 27, 2012