Friday, September 2, 2011

Can't Keep Those Optimists Down

After the work day, a great extended late lunch, full of intense conversation; a sweaty tramp through a small pine forest and steep(ish) inclines, along dirt paths with gnarled roots; and a descent into the refreshingly chilled basement for some progress on that Reclaimed piece. I dabbled, but the progress part didn't really happen. Nothing gelled. I have three more papers with headstones that are otherwise untouched. So maybe I can play with those without ruining them as well. {It *is* a three day weekend, after all. Finally, a wee respite.} Calls to mind a Beckett quote that resurfaced in my head recently:

“Ever tried. Ever failed. No matter. Try Again. Fail again. Fail better.”
--Samuel Beckett

Cheery, hunh! It is Beckett, after all. Not actually a big fan of his, but it seems to sum things up right now. Grim steadfastness? It's kind of surprising too, that while it's totally depressing, it also holds the kernel of optimism. Because otherwise, why even bother trying again? The thinnest sliver of light, needling its way in. 

Which also brings me to the lyrics from "Picture Window," a collaboration between Ben Folds and great writer Nick Hornsby: 

"You know what hope is? / Hope is a bastard / Hope is a liar / A cheat and a tease / Hope comes near you / Kick its backside / Got no place in times like these." 

If you're not familiar with the song, it's about a mother with an extremely ill child; she sees fireworks from the hospital window and is lifted by hope, even as she knows the circumstances have not changed. The song struck me from the first listen; and while optimism serves most of us better than pessimism, it also strikes me that this hope can arrive so suddenly, with such force and with no real connection to circumstances that it can take on an air of cruelty, and leave one feeling naive, caught out.  But perhaps the value of hope resides in the experience of the sentiment itself: the temporary lift, the momentary possession of a generalized sense of faith. 

Whew, how did we get here? And nothing drastic is going on here. I have no sick child, was frustrated by the basement endeavors and probably should have gone to bed hours ago. That's right, says virtual Mom, patting both my arms, why don't you go to bed now? I bought you some nice new bath towels, they were on sale and you won't believe how soft they are.


  1. I know that Ben Folds song... first because I hated what he did to my favorite word - he exposed it's shallowness, it's vulnerability... then secondly through you with the explanation of the lyrics in a previous post somewhere online - and then I started to appreciate the song and my (now) tarnished word again.

    I have often toyed with the idea of a tattoo and have stopped short of finding something I'm fairly sure I could live with for the rest of my life, (oddly, I'm not always so cautious with things that remain a lifetime). The only exception was for the word "hope"... that was until I heard his song. I realized even though I've counted on that word, depended on it, found security in it - there would be days I hated it. It's a much more complex word than I first thought - but I think I'll just keep it in my mind and in my conversations - not in ink.

    Thanks for making the universe blink with signs of intelligent life M.

  2. Stone Bridge, your response makes me sad! Even as I totally agree with what you're saying. I don't wish for the concept of the sentiment to be tarnished for you. It probably all goes back to the Buddhist concept of detaching from expectations, ceasing to seize on the notion of a desired/expected outcome. Which is something I'm not very good at it --> I get excited and ahead of myself and then stunned when reality doesn't fall into place in that particularly shiny way I had envisioned it...because it's life and you simply can't control it. Funny how lessons must be learned over and over again...And it's that dissappointment, that hurt that can potentially make us bitter about hope. Not hope's fault ;)

  3. LOL, no, not hope's fault at all! Don't feel sad - I listened to some Benny Goodman (following your lead)... wow how uplifting that was - I can see the national treasure in music like that -- I know it lifted generations before us in difficult times... still relevant today and I'm thankful for it!