Hope Springs Eternal in the Human Breast

English: Pond at Pope's Meadow Pope's Meadow i...

Pond at Pope’s Meadow is named after Alexander Pope who lived nearby. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Hope springs eternal in the human breast;
Man never Is, but always To be blest:
The soul, uneasy and confin’d from home,

Rests and expatiates in a life to come.

Alexander Pope

From Pope’s “An Essay on Man” this quote has always struck a chord with me, especially the first line.  I think it is a great illustration of the sheer tenacity of the human spirit.  Very much in the same vein of “Dum spiro spero” (While I breathe, I hope), Alexander Pope very deftly illustrates how as long as we live so does hope.  But unlike Cicero’s “Dum spiro spero”, Pope’s “Hope springs eternal in the human breast” does not just encompass one single individual but instead is a concise treatise on the human condition.

The essence of hope (or expectation from the Greek elpis) itself is that wonderful blessing/curse that truly makes human beings the most intelligent and emotional creature that we are.  Its existence provides us with the very basis of living.  What does our existence amount to without the hope for a better tomorrow or expectation of things to come?

You may be slightly confused by my use of blessing/curse when describing to hope.  This notion of hope being both is rooted for me in the early myth of Pandora.  In the myth, the Greek gods create Pandora as a gift for Epimetheus (“Hindsight”), brother of Prometheus (“Foresight”).  She out of naivety opens a jar containing all the evils in the world but closes it just in time to keep hope trapped in the jar.  I’m of two minds when it comes to this:

  1. What is hope (arguably a good thing) doing in a jar (filled by the gods) with all the world’s evils (death, destruction, disease)?
  2. What if the reason hope is in this jar is because it is a curse as well as a blessing?

I think that option 2 is the more likely reason.  Hope is a wonderful thing.  Each morning we are filled with hope for the day.  But then also at the end of the day, hope can be a devastating thing.  For example, you spent all day hoping that your beloved would phone as she/he promised you but as you lay your head on your pillow, you are left with the emptiness of an unrealized hope.

But it is that hope/expectations that truly differentiates humans from the animal world around us.  For what is a life without hope?

Erin Eymard is a lover of history and literature and blogs over at The Bookworm’s Fancy.

Enhanced by Zemanta
Advertisements

What “Patience is a Virtue” means

“Patience is a Virtue”

When some people want something, they want it now. They demand to have it now. They don’t have time to wait. They will take what they can get now, rather than waiting a little for something better.

We’re all equally guilty of wanting something immediately, or sooner rather than later, at one point or another. We can’t afford to wait. Time is money. Waiting means we won’t have what we want today. We may miss out on something we can experience now. We don’t want to wait for tomorrow.

Even when we decide to wait, we become jittery. We don’t know what to do with ourselves. After a while, our patience wears thin, and we begin looking for instant gratification. When we get it sooner than expected, we heave a sigh of relieve. Aaaaaahhhhh, we got it.

But did we really get what we were waiting for, or did we lower our standards to get it sooner? We accept a smaller piece of what we were waiting for in exchange for instant gratification. Why not, tomorrow may never come. Why not take a little less today? Why not get some gratification today rather than a lot more gratification tomorrow and possibly the rest of our lives? Because today is here and tomorrow may never come.

This is an instinct we’re born with: the instinct to satisfy our needs whenever we’re able to. This is an instinct we picked up from the dawn of time: take what you can now, since you may not get the chance tomorrow.

Patience goes counter to our instincts. Patience is something which must be learned and practiced. It isn’t something which comes naturally to us. Those who master patience become more successful than those who can’t. They know that waiting for long term gratification is much better than accepting temporary instant gratification. They know that going slow and doing something right is much better than rushing and doing half a job, or worse, doing it wrong and having to repeat it, which will take longer than if they had waited. These are the people who don’t have the time or money to do something right, but manage to find much more of both when something breaks and must be fixed now. These people are you and me.

This is why patience, being able to wait, is a desirable quality. It is difficult to have the moral integrity to forego instant gratification in exchange for something better at a later date. This is why it is a virtue.

Those who have that virtue have truly understood that it is better to wait for tomorrow to take the full reward, rather than taking a small sample today.

Stop competing with the Joneses, your grass is just as green as theirs.

“If we only wanted to be happy it would be easy; but we want to be happier than other people, which is almost always difficult, since we think them happier than they are.”              Charles-Louis de Secondat Baron de Montesquieu

If there was no one else around to compare ourselves to, we would all be happier than we are. But none of us live in a vacuum. There are others around and seeing them happy makes some of us miserable.

“There must be a reason why they’re happier than we are,” we think to ourselves. Those people have a better life than we do is what most of us come back with. They have more than us. Their car is nicer or house is better decorated and so on. We think that it’s what they have that’s making them happier than us.

The trouble is, those other people look at us the same way, they think the same thing, that we have nicer things than they do, that we’re happier than they are.

Both assumptions are false. But the effect is the same, it makes us both miserable. It makes us compete against each other. When left to our own devices, we’re happy and so are they. When we see each other, we become jealous.

In our minds the other person is happier than us, making us jealous rather than happy. In their mind, we’re happier than they are, making them jealous as well. We begin to resent each other, wishing ill will on the other, hoping they’ll fail, so that we’ll be happier and better than they are.

If you want to be really happy, stop trying to keep up with the Joneses, especially when they’re trying to keep up with you. Chances are they aren’t happy at all, they just put on a good front in order to make you jealous. Don’t make them better or happier than they really are.

Be happy with who you are and what you have, and you’ll make everyone else jealous. Give it a try. You’ll be amazed at the result.

Tragedy should be utilized as a source of strength.

“There is a saying in Tibetan, ‘Tragedy should be utilized as a source of strength.’
No matter what sort of difficulties, how painful experience is, if we lose our hope, that’s our real disaster.” Dalai Lama XIV

When disaster strikes, we feel empathy for those affected. Our hearts go out to those grieving, those who’ve lost their life’s possessions, or worse, loved ones. We do what we can for them. We send donations of money and supplies. Some even volunteer their services, going to where the crisis exists, to help in any way they can.

Disasters bring people together. There is unity in their efforts to bring relief as quickly as possible, to prevent any further suffering. Disasters bring out the best in people. People who’ve never talked to their neighbors before suddenly open their homes and their hearts to complete strangers in need of help.

It’s like poetry in motion to see the caring and devotion of everyone involved, from the highest government officials, the largest corporations, to the single individuals, all acting as one to bring relief to those affected by the disaster.

Feats, which seemed impossible, miraculously happen before our eyes. Supplies, that would normally take weeks or months to collect, appear overnight. Shipments come from halfway around the world, from nations we thought never cared for us.

There are few individual heroes in a disaster. The main hero is the collective will of the people to bring aid to those affected and to prevent any further suffering.

But there are two sides to every disaster.

Those directly impacted by the disaster stand on a precipice ready to fall. All they see before them is hopelessness and despair.

Those directly impacted are never more alone then during this time of crisis. Their pain and suffering is immense. As time goes one, their pain and suffering continues to build, tilting off the precipice, into hopelessness and despair. They begin to question why so much could happen to one person. They question how much loss could a person endure. They ask why did this happen to them. They feel completely alone.

Some have lost all of their possessions. Some have lost items they cared about, that have been handed down from generation to generation. Some have lost their homes and everything in them. Some items can be replaced. Many items can never be replaced.

And then there are those who’ve lost loved ones. The material losses pale compared to this type of loss. What’s left is an emptiness in their hearts. Loneliness begins to creep in, compounding the emptiness in their hearts.

All of them begin tilting off the precipice, towards hopelessness and despair.

But then a miracle begins to happen. Just when it seems that all hope will be lost, a flood of help comes through. Volunteers show up, coming from everywhere, to help people they never met, but who are in need. Aid packages arrive, with supplies that are desperately needed. Rays of hope begin to shine.

Disasters occur throughout history. So long as the whole of humanity can come together, to mobilize, for the aid of those affected, will hope continue to win out. If we use the disaster as a source of strength, no matter how painful the experience becomes, we can overcome anything. It is only when all hope is lost that the real tragedy happens. It’s the actions of the volunteers, of the global community acting as one that continually reminds us to never give up hope.

So long as people still care for one another, so long as they feel empathy for another’s loss, will there always be hope. Never, ever give up, for that, will be the true tragedy.

However, there is one foe in every disaster: Time. Time is of the essence for relief. As time slowly ticks away without any aid, so does hope. Time helps in a tragedy, turning events into memories, but time is an enemy is a disaster. In a disaster, if there is no aid in sight, time slowly turns hope and strength into hopelessness and despair.

Each of us can leave behind footprints in the sand of time

“Lives of great people remind us we can make our lives sublime and, departing, leave behind footprints in the sand of time.” Henry Wadsworth Longfellow.

There are people who look at themselves and admonish any notion of becoming a person of substance or value, simply because of their circumstances. They adjust their goals and ambitions solely based on the achievements of others in their family or their financial situation. They automatically discount the notion that they too can one day become great, before their lives have really begun.

Greatness isn’t something that’s thrust upon you. You become great by the type of person you are, and what you accomplish during your time here, not by whom your parents are or how much money you’re born into.

You become great by living a sublime existence: by leading a life of high moral and intellectual value. You make your life sublime by inspiring awe and admiration in others, from your deeds and words. You live an existence that’s elevated in nature.

Being famous, rich, or even a leader doesn’t aspire someone to greatness. Throughout history, there are many more rich and famous who’ve been forgotten than poor ones who are remembered.

There are some who are remembered by what they did. That doesn’t mean they’ve become great. It simply means their actions, good or bad are remembered. Their name is associated with those actions.

The truly sublime are remembered for who they are. What they accomplish becomes secondary.

The sand of time is history. When someone leaves behind footprints in the sand of time, they are leaving behind imprints, of themselves or their actions, in history. These imprints, or footprints, last for generations. They become memories, footprints, which may never disappear, or take centuries to disappear.

All of us can leave behind a piece of ourselves to be remembered after we die, by acknowledging the fact that it is within our means to do so. You do so by leading a life whose main purpose is to benefit humanity. When you put humanity before yourself, the path to greatness will open itself to you. When you take that path, you too will leave behind footprints in the sand of time.

This quote is an excerpt from a poem Henry Wadsworth Longfellow first published in 1838 in the Knickerbocker Magazine called ‘A Psalm of Life”.

From Wikipedia: Longfellow wrote the poem shortly after completing lectures on German writer Johann Wolfgang von Goethe and was heavily inspired by him. He was also inspired to write it by a heartfelt conversation he had with friend and fellow professor at Harvard University Cornelius Conway Felton; the two had spent an evening “talking of matters, which lie near one’s soul:–and how to bear one’s self doughtily in Life’s battle: and make the best of things”.[1] The next day, he wrote “A Psalm of Life”.

A Psalm of Life
What the Heart of the Young Man Said To the Psalmist

Tell me not, in mournful numbers,
Life is but an empty dream! —
For the soul is dead that slumbers,
And things are not what they seem.

Life is real!  Life is earnest!
And the grave is not its goal;
Dust thou art, to dust returnest,
Was not spoken of the soul.

Not enjoyment, and not sorrow,
Is our destined end or way;
But to act, that each to-morrow
Find us farther than to-day.

Art is long, and Time is fleeting,
And our hearts, though stout and brave,
Still, like muffled drums, are beating
Funeral marches to the grave.

In the world’s broad field of battle,
In the bivouac of Life,
Be not like dumb, driven cattle!
Be a hero in the strife!

Trust no Future, howe’er pleasant!
Let the dead Past bury its dead!
Act, — act in the living Present!
Heart within, and God o’erhead!

Lives of great men all remind us
We can make our lives sublime,
And, departing, leave behind us
Footprints on the sands of time;

Footprints, that perhaps another,
Sailing o’er life’s solemn main,
A forlorn and shipwrecked brother,
Seeing, shall take heart again.

Let us, then, be up and doing,
With a heart for any fate;
Still achieving, still pursuing,
Learn to labor and to wait.

Humor and imagination: we need both

“Imagination was given to us to compensate for what we are not; a sense of humor was given to us to console us for what we are.” Mack McGinnis

Human beings use imagination to make up for what we lack. We can’t all reach what we go after and so once in a while we like to dream, to let our imagination carry us away from reality.

Through imagination, the impossible becomes real, the unreachable is reached, and our ideal perfect life is achieved. We may not be secret agents, but one of us became James Bond, 007, through imagination. When we open the door, our modes of expression allow others to share a part of our mind, to share the imaginary world we’ve created.

A sense of humor allows us to look at what we’ve become and to laugh. If we can’t laugh at our own shortcomings we might as well give up.

Laughter helps us deal with the here and now. Laughter lets us say “we haven’t reached our dreams yet, but that’s okay, it’s not the end of the world”

Laughing at what we are opens the door for our imagination to conjure up ‘what will be’. If the world is fortunate enough, we may even put the output of our imagination down onto paper, sharing our ‘what will be’ with everyone else.

 

 

Are you looking for beauty with your eyes or your mind?

” The most beautiful thing we can experience is the mysterious. It is the source of all true art and all science. He to whom this emotion is a stranger, who can no longer pause to wonder and stand rapt in awe, is as good as dead: his eyes are closed.” Albert Einstein

It is the imagination, the mind, which determines what is beautiful or what is average or just plain. Each person has their own interpretation of what is beautiful. However, the one true aspect of beauty is that it comes from the mind. Something mysterious, which doesn’t reveal everything, stimulates the mind. The mystery behind the object, what our mind sees, is what makes us wonder. This is why is it not what you look at, but rather what you see that matters.

Gazing at something that we understand does little to stimulate the mind. Many people say the naked body is beautiful, but that is not true. A well proportioned body with just the right parts covered is beautiful. A naked body leaves nothing to the imagination. There is no mystery behind a naked body, no matter how well proportioned. More people would find a model beautiful, in a certain pose with clothes on, than in the same pose with no clothes on. Naked, we begin to see their flaws, how skinny they are, how their bones are protruding where they shouldn’t be. Clothed, we imagine how they would look underneath, how perfect their bodies must be.

It is the same with art, words or knowledge. The person who knows everything is boring. The person who knows everything speaks with precise words, conveying everything about each topic. This leaves nothing to the imagination, and so, people find those who can explain things in minute details boring. The interesting people are the ones who stimulate our mind, who give us just enough information to make us think, to let our imagination wonder.

Art and pictures that people find beautiful are the ones which make them wonder. “What was the artist thinking when he painted this?”. “How did the photographer get those colors in that landscape?”

This is the reason why most people find text books boring. They are nothing more than vessels conveying facts. They do nothing to our imagination, unless they are books about your chosen profession, in which case they will spark your imagination. The best books in the world are the ones which make people think, which ignite the imagination.

This is why most people can’t watch a movie or read a book if they already know the ending. The ability for it to stimulate your mind has been taken away.

If you want to enjoy this life, to get more satisfaction out of the time you’ll spend here, leave something for your imagination. Don’t know 100 percent of everything. Try just knowing 90 percent. Let your imagination come up with the other 10 percent. You’ll start finding beauty where you never did before.

Are there limits to human stupidity?

““Two things are infinite: the universe and human stupidity; and I’m not sure about the universe.” Albert Einstein

It is said that although the universe is always expanding, it may not be infinite, we just haven’t found the end.

Human stupidity, on the other hand, seems to be quite infinite. Each time we think we’ve seen the limits of human stupidity, someone does something stupider than anything else before.

Historian have shown us that history repeats itself, but have we learned from previous mistakes? Our stupidity refuses to let us. We think things will be different this time because we’re wiser, only to get proven wrong on both counts.

Not too long before the US economic collapse, Japan underwent a similar economic collapse. The collapse in Japan lasted over ten years. Economists here put much of the blame on the Japanese government for keeping interest rates at or near 0. They called it the lost decade. In the US, the government is going the same things that Japan did. This is history repeating itself within a matter of years, not decades or centuries, and yet we still think things will be different, because we’re smarter.

To get a better idea of the infinite levels of human stupidity, just turn on the television. There’s dozens of reality shows, each trying to outdo the other by seeing who can find the stupidest people. Each time we think people couldn’t get much stupider, a new reality show comes on, proving that yes indeed, we can get much stupider.  Remember when we thought people couldn’t get any stupider than the ones on the original talk shows, like the Jerry Springer show? When you hear things like “I don’t know which of these ten men is my babies biological father” doesn’t it make you cringe?

Every generation that comes along thinks it’s smarter than the one before it. We learn too late how stupid we were, that we should have listened to our parents. Our children think they’re different, that they’re smarter than we were. They’ll make the same mistakes we made.

Human stupidity seems to have no bounds. From individuals to countries, we continually amaze ourselves. To see how stupid nations are, just turn on the news. You’ll see another country, the size of a flea, trying to take on the world.

Wouldn’t it be amazing if our levels of compassion were infinite, rather than our stupidity?

 

The parent, not genes, is responsible for how a teenager is

“I have also seen children successfully surmounting the effects of an evil inheritance. That is due to purity being an inherent attribute of the soul.” Mahatma Gandhi

No one is born evil, or good for that matter, just because their parents or ancestors were that way.

A baby is born pure, balanced, with no pre-disposition to do what others in his or her blood line have done before. It’s not what has happened in the past which determines how a child will grow, but what happens at present that matters most.

The first two years of a babies life are the most crucial. That is when the brain is beginning to develop. Shower the baby with love and attention, and the parts of the brain relating to love and emotions will begin to develop more.

Babies which are given plenty of love and attention within the first two years of life, are more likely to grow to become loving and caring individuals.

Babies that are not held, not shown love, and not given any attention during the first two years, never fully develop that part of the brain. They are more likely to grow up to become unfeeling, emotionless adults.

It’s the babies environment and upbringing which determines the type of character the baby will have as an adult. To try teaching love and morals when the child is a teenager, or grown adult is much too late. A parent has to begin showing a baby the traits they want the child to inherit while the brain is forming, within the first two years of life. The parent then has to keep re-enforcing these traits as the child grows. This duty of a parent never goes away. It doesn’t go away when the child is fully grown and moves out. A parent  becomes free of this duty only upon death. If at all possible, it may not even end there.

Parents cannot be held blameless for the actions of their children, if they didn’t shower them with love and affection during the most crucial years of life. A parent can’t say they don’t know why their grown son or daughter are evil, if they never showed them any love when they were born, and as they grew.

To ignore a baby, to only give it the basic necessities for survival, ought to be a crime. Parenting is more than just bringing a baby into the world. The character of the baby is directly influenced by what the parents do or don’t do. An adult who is prone to evil wasn’t born that way. An adult prone to evil was ignored as a baby, never shown any love or affection.

What parents do or don’t do directly impacts which parts of the babies brain develop more.  This is one of the reasons middle children are different than first or last born siblings. Depending on the household, either first born or last born children would get the greatest amount of love and affection during the crucial years. Those children usually grow up being the most balanced and with the best traits.

To raise a person of morals and good character, begin when the baby is born. Impart the traits you want the baby to inherit by doing them repeatedly and consistently. If you want the teenager to hug you, hug the baby. If you want the teenager to love you, love the baby. If you want the teenager to talk to you, talk to the baby. The teenager will be a reflection of you, the way you acted when the teenager was a baby.

Feeling down? Let the magic found in a child lift you.

“Look at the children around you and you will find the magic curtain, magic indeed in this respect, that instead of dropping slowly down before your wondering eyes, it is growing up, unfolding and expanding some new beauty or exposing some well-remembered fault. What pleasure to note the many wonders of this all-revealing scene! What innocence in the sweet child face, what purity in the clear child eyes!” Nellie V. Anderson

Children are our future. How anyone can not look at a child and be moved is beyond comprehension. When you look at a happy, excitable child you see magic in their eyes. Too see real beauty, gaze into the face of an innocent child. Children still have that single quality which seems to evade many adults: the belief that anything is possible.

Look into the eyes of your own child. How can you not be moved? Gaze into their eyes and you’ll catch the glimmers of innocence, which seem to think that anything is possible.

Look at your children as they sleep. Do you not see yourself? Do you not see potential? Do you not see yourself starting over?

Watch your children as they play. Are you not transported back to an earlier time when you were as carefree and happy? For a few fleeting  moments, don’t all of the worlds problems magically disappear?

Hug your child and feel the magic that passes between the two of you. Close your eyes and feel their love filled arms embracing you with all their might. Can’t you see the future? Isn’t it a view of yourself twenty or thirty years from now, happy and content?

Gaze into their eyes while they’re still holding you and you’ll see what true love really is.

Now take all of those feelings and remember them any time your feeling down, or that the weight of the world is too much to bear. A child is your miracle contribution to humanity. When you reflect on the feelings a child inspires within you, there is nothing you won’t do to ensure that child gets every opportunity that you missed out on.

If you don’t have a child of your own, you are missing out on one of the greatest miracles on Earth. It doesn’t matter if it is not your biological child. It doesn’t matter if the child is adopted, a grandchild, or your best friends. What matters most is how that child is loved and raised in order for the magic to show.