Built in hope

The road to Wieskirche, a place of hope for many pilgrims, near Steingaden, Germany, August 2005

The road to Wieskirche, a place of pilgrimage near Steingaden, Germany, August 2005

“The road that is built in hope is more pleasant to the traveler than the road built in despair, even though they both lead to the same destination.” Marian Zimmer Bradley

I love the book Life of Pi, especially the ending where Pi asks the skeptics a valid but often overlooked question: which is the better story?

There are those who see optimism as just another form of delusion; who feel that faith is nothing more than wishful thinking.  I think most of us who have suffered in any way can understand and sympathize to some degree with the disillusionment of the cynics, but perhaps their pessimism is actually more defensive than the determined forward motion of the hopeful.  Perhaps it is just as delusional to put one’s trust in what appears to be objective reason; after all, how many times has “established fact” been proven erroneous?

I’ve struggled with depression more often than I care to admit, and while pain can teach us much, I think it’s a tragedy to be permanently chained to it.  Contrary to what some people may believe, optimists are sometimes the most realistic of all.  It’s not that they are blind to the sorrows of life; it’s simply that they refuse to be defined by them.  That’s why the song “The Impossible Dream,” said to be the favorite song of Robert Kennedy, is a favorite of countless other people as well.  Don Quixote does not sing of happy endings and certain victory.  He celebrates the refusal to surrender to sorrow and despair.  “And the world will be better for this.”

Whatever sorrows and troubles you may face in life, I hope that you will always find your way back to the road built in hope, where traveling mercies abound.

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19 Comments

  1. Fran Kettren

    Thank you for sharing your wisdom, beautiful thoughts and photographs from your travels. God truly has blessed me through you! Love you Julia!

    • Thank you Fran, I am so happy to have you visit us here!

  2. I watched the Pi movie just day before yesterday. (See, I told you 🙂 )The movie is still haunting me.
    Quoted this once:
    “The nice part about being a pessimist is that you are constantly being either proven right or pleasantly surprised.” – George Will.
    It takes courage to be an optimist, I feel. And you are blessed with the quality.

    • Thanks, Bindu. George Will is one of my favorite writers, but he often is a pessimist, as is my husband. In fact, the quote you include here is pretty much one of Jeff’s guiding principles. I never thought about optimism requiring courage, but I think you are right; it does, because we are sometimes setting ourselves up for disappointment. When Jeff first got diagnosed I worried that his pessimism would work against his chances to get well, but fortunately Jeff also has the quality of being able to focus on the present and close his mind to worries while he stays busy with more immediate concerns. As they say, “it takes all kinds” and perhaps Jeff and I are lucky to have different strengths. Thanks for being here, I appreciate your thoughts. Gorgeous photos of the butterflies on your blog! And I loved reading the quotes there.

  3. Michael Bertoglio

    I tried to watch that movie- Life of Pi- on the plane back from New York. I could not near well on the Digiplayer. Sounds like the book is a better investment, as is often the case.
    I have often admired George Will though I don’t always agree with him. His vocabulary is amazing and I have to read with a dictionary in hand. His depth of thought and eruditon amaze. I did not realize he was a pessimist. Thanks for this insight. At a certain age pessimism is in vogue. I( went through a Nietsche phase in college. Some people grow out of this; others not. I guess Woody Allen is a modern example. Also Carnac.

    • Mike, I read the book first which I think is important with this particular film. I was afraid to watch the movie version because I didn’t see how it could capture the profound layers of meaning in the book, but I was surprised and delighted to find what a good representation it was. As with almost all films, it had to compress the details, but I think the themes came through and the cinematography was stunning. I agree with you about George Will, he sends me to the dictionary more than any other writer does. He might not agree with my labeling him a pessimist, but I feel that he definitely leans that way, as do many conservatives; annoyingly often, their pessimism turns out to be well founded. I think many young people go through a Nietzsche phase; I could never buy into him, but when I studied philosophy in college, I could see how his apparent logic could draw people in. Ultimately, though, it’s a bankrupt way of thinking. What makes Woody Allen’s equally bankrupt philosophy appealing to watch and listen to is that at least he is in on the joke and able to turn it to humor. As Pi pointed out in the movie, I believe in the end we all believe what we choose to believe. I choose faith and hope.

  4. Well said, and so very true. Sadness is a part of life, balanced by moments of happiness, but depression is an illness that destroys lives if unchecked. I’ve had my own struggles and have seen it hurt others up close. I choose hope and optimism. Otherwise, why get out of bed in the morning.

    Thanks, Julia.

    • You’re welcome, Alys! As I quoted Alexandra Stoddard in this post, “I’ve never found a solution in cynicism.” I appreciate your visits here, and your comments!

  5. Sheila

    Good Saturday morning,Julia. At first glance, I thought the picture was a scenic road in Tennessee. Since Jeff rushed to work on Thursday morning, I hope it’s rest and relaxation this weekend. I thank you, once again, for the wisdom you present here everyday! Sheila

    • Hi Sheila, that road does look a good bit like many in middle or east Tennessee. The first time I visited the lovely East Tennessee mountain town of Shady Valley, I told my friend who lived there that it reminded me of The Sound of Music. I’m so glad you like my blog! It’s always a pleasure to hear from you.

  6. Thank You, dear, BeLOVE Julia for a beautifully written passage on HOPE. my prayer for all is to never surrender HOPE > Our Father, our Savior and empowerment of the Holy Spirit is able to do more than any of us can even imagine when we surrender in prayer and keep Hope alive. There will never come a time when I will regret holding onto Hope for Love abides with Hope. agape Love and prayers to you & yours, sister in Christ.

    • Hello Kate, I have been missing you and praying all is well with you and yours. I am so happy to hear from you again! Thanks so much for your steadfast faith and for your encouraging comments here!

  7. merry

    Beautiful picture and encouraging words…

    • Thank you! I am so happy to have you visit us here!

  8. For me, being an optimist is a triggered reaction to living with someone who was absolutely not. It’s like an involuntary reflex, I don’t know any other way to live a productive life except to strive everyday, in every way to be the opposite. Everyone has low times, sad times, times of despair but an optimist will not make others lives a misery because of it.

    • I think you’re right that optimists are often forced to be so, almost as a survival tactic as far as I can tell. “For every action there is an equal and opposite reaction.” Depression, in the medical sense, can cloud the picture somewhat as even optimists can fall prey to it temporarily (and often I think it’s exacerbated by the influence of negative people) but I think the difference ultimately lies in trust, or lack thereof. Optimists trust in the power of what is true, right and good to win eventually, whether or not they live to see it. I think gloomy and negative people are essentially defensive, protecting themselves against fears that often become self-fulfilling prophecies.

      • How’d you get so smart? Well said! I’d rather go thru life happily looking forward than pessimistically complaining about life. As Craig Ferguson would say, “this ain’t a dress rehearsal”. 😀

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