Friday, January 06, 2012

Hang On To Your Hope

It seems fashionable to think the world is going to hell and there's not a damn thing we can do about it. I don't share that opinion although I do tend to look at the news now and again and wonder what the hell is going on.

Even if you consider yourself reasonably optimistic, I sometimes wonder whether the idea that it's all a bit pointless gets into you and has a consequent effect on your behaviour. I know within me there's a hardened lump of cynicism/pessimism but I try to fight it off  and, in my mind anyway, I think the optimistic side usually wins.

What I am increasingly guilty of is not getting anything significant done. Sure, I can deal with the day to day stuff or the stuff that simply has to be done but there's nothing long term in my plans. I'll put something off because I won't see the benefit of it for a few weeks/months/years and then, what do you know, that time has passed and I wish I'd done that thing because I know now I'd be reaping whatever reward I was due for my farsightedness.

Am I like this because deep down inside I'm troubled by the thought that it's all a bit pointless or is it just apathy and laziness? I suspect there's a fair amount of the latter and also regrettably, sometimes a little of the former.

I think some of it also has to do with comfort and security (and/or possibly insecurity). When you're young and hungry you go out and grab things - you've got nothing to lose. You have to do this because opportunities don't tend to come offering themselves to you. As you get older and more secure you don't need to go out and fight so much. You've bagged the big stuff - a home, a partner, kids, a steady job, financial security and whatever else floats your boat. You then consolidate. You hunker down.

If you haven't got one of those things (and I have a few gaps in that particular list) you tend to be more philosophical about it and it stops becoming something you hope will one day define you and the reverse happens. You end up being defined by its absence rather than its presence.

Just stumbling across the following letter was what triggered the above thoughts. It's from the writer E. B. White and his response to a correspondent asking for his thoughts on the future of humankind - that's a big subject to ask anyone but it's a simple (always the best), thoughtful and considered response.

What it says to me is if you do think the world is going to hell, then find a modest task that you know has something more than just an immediate objective and remind yourself whenever you do it that by doing this small thing, you're planning for the future. In this case, winding up a clock that will then run for  a week is a "....contribution to order and steadfastness".

As long as there is one upright man, as long as there is one compassionate woman, the contagion may spread and the scene is not desolate. Hope is the thing that is left to us, in a bad time. I shall get up Sunday morning and wind the clock, as a contribution to order and steadfastness.

Sailors have an expression about the weather: they say, the weather is a great bluffer. I guess the same is true of our human society—things can look dark, then a break shows in the clouds, and all is changed, sometimes rather suddenly. It is quite obvious that the human race has made a queer mess of life on this planet. But as a people we probably harbor seeds of goodness that have lain for a long time waiting to sprout when the conditions are right. Man's curiosity, his relentlessness, his inventiveness, his ingenuity have led him into deep trouble. We can only hope that these same traits will enable him to claw his way out.

Hang on to your hat. Hang on to your hope. And wind the clock, for tomorrow is another day.


(Signed, 'E. B. White')

The above is courtesy of the always interesting Letters of Note.


Terra Shield said...

I think we all reach a point where we kind of stop doing things that are significant because we start asking the question: "Why are we here and what are we doing all these things for?"

sriyany said...

I agree with Terra Shield that everyone at some point would be feeling the way you do.

Finding a purpose at each turn is a challenge.

King of Scurf said...

Terra: On hindsight I think I may have been wrong to use the word "significant". I think I just lack a long-term approach to things. All your travelling last year suggests you're still a good planner.

Sriyany: Agreed. Finding a purpose and having an objective - those are the useful skills. And appreciating the rewards when they come.

Anonymous said...

Hanging on to my hat, holding on to my hope. Looking for a clock that needs winding.

King of Scurf said...

nursemyra: That's just the attitude I'm looking for nursemyra. Good on ya.

Nota Bene said...

There's no hope...nursemyra stole my comment. But other than that all is good or will be good