So – the legal project’s (still) not done – something about money and will I get paid and come on! it’s the end of the year! – Enough. Hello. So glad to be seeing you again.
We were just about to enter into the dark world of lost love. Bugs off on an Excellent Adventure. And me, bereft in a world of hurt.
And how sobering to know that for some others of us, love stays lost for a lot longer than that.
So if you’ve been following along here, you understand I’ve spent the greater portion of my life as one of the latter. You’ve seen me struggle, for so long, to find balance between “comprehensive gloom” on the one hand –
But what was less known to me, what I was really resisting to the death, was this: “Wicked” or “unscrupulous” optimism.
Wicked or unscrupulous optimism.
Just as I sat down to write this entry, so don’t tell me the universe isn’t compassionate! I find that there’s been a whole world of philosophical ponderings on this topic – I’m almost 62, and up to now I always thought philosophy was all about how many angels could dance on the head of a pin.
So “wicked or unscrupulous optimism” v. “comprehensive gloom”? Schopenhauer (1788-1860).
And just before I found Schopenhauer-via-Scruton – I could not make this up! – I also ran across this amazing quote from T.S. Eliot – about whom I did know, from my years as an English major, whose haunting beauty has stayed with me to this day, I grow old, I grow old, I shall wear the bottoms of my trousers rolled – but it took 45 years for this quote to sink in, this wonderful mirror in which I gazed on my very own face:
I said to my soul, be still, and let the dark come upon you
which shall be the darkness of God.
* * *
I said to my soul, be still, and wait without hope
For hope would be hope for the wrong thing; wait without love
For love would be love for the wrong thing; there is yet faith
But the faith and love and the hope are all in the waiting.
Wait without thought, for you are not ready for thought:
So the darkness shall be the light, and the stillness the dancing.
– T.S. Eliot, “East Coker,” from the FOUR QUARTETS
Hope for the wrong thing. Love for the wrong thing. Wait with faith. In the dark the light. In stillness the dancing.
Sorry. Homer Simpson just came to mind.
My point is, here’s the thing about agape that’s always blocked it like the Matterhorn Mountain, thank you again Roger Scruton: “[H]ope, detached from faith and untempered by the evidence of history, is a dangerous asset, and one that threatens not only those who embrace it, but all those within the range of their illusions.”
Untempered by the evidence of history.
Now I don’t want to dwell on this, let me just touch it gently and move on. I’ll let Roger Scruton catalogue it: “The great crowd movements of communism, Nazism, and fascism, in which false hopes were to transform themselves into marching armies . . . . the rise of the scientific expert [remember the hedgehogs!] did little more than re-brand the witch-hunts and genocides. . . . Of course the science was phony; but that merely shows that, when unreason triumphs, it does so in the name of reason.”
And just a bit more Scruton: The panics that “show the other side of unscrupulous optimism: the equally unscrupulous pessimism that comes when false hope is deflated.” [the financial crisis! hedgehogs again.] When people “ignore[ ] evidence and argument,” and choose instead a “preordained conclusion [hedgehogs again!], accepted because it gives direction and force to a mass movement of the righteous, assembled to cast out the devil in our midst.” [It’s Wall Street!]
And my last name is Schnee, by the way. Schadenfreude is my middle name.
So T.S. Eliot halleluyah.
And also Jung. (Swiss Deutsche – seems there’s no way around it.) When I admired the Eliot quote to a friend, he noticed the similarity between it and what his Jungian analyst encouraged him to do: “Stay in the void, hold the tension, rather than rushing to answers/resolutions/decisions.” [hedgehogs!] My friend said the therapist described the void as “a pregnant place.” [Birth! ]
Right about now it seems good to take us into Aristotelian Phronesis. But it’s thundering and hailing (Arkansas in late December!), the power is coming on and off, Bugs is hiding somewhere (in the house this time I trust), and I’m in dire need of coffee. More later.