Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Hope Springs Eternal

We never know what tomorrow may bring
Which is why we like hope to eternally spring
It’s the best approach in dealing with stress
In which we usually can find some success
It’s all in “How One Perceives Everything”

On this “Lucky” Day of the Irish, (of which I can claim 25% heritage) I was reflecting on the difference in philosophy between those who rely on hope versus those who cast their lot with luck. “Hope” has become a buzzword in the recent political season but I think it could be a significant factor in helping us deal with the challenges with which we are currently grappling. Two Thousand years ago, we were reminded that three greatest virtues were “faith, hope, and charity (love) and the greatest of these is charity” Most people remember this quote using love, but the intent is on empathy, caring, and compassion for others, not romantic love, much to the chagrin of wedding planners everywhere. Faith is based in the present and is a belief in an outside power to determine outcome. Hope is future based and is a more optimistic mindset, encouraging one to seize opportunities though the choices made. Restoring a sense of hope in the midst of what seems like incessant “bad news” seems like an important early step to getting people to come up with new solutions. Einstein’s quote that “Problems cannot be solved by the same level of thinking that created them”, is a good reminder that thinking differently can by itself change our perceptions of a problem and give us new options.

I’ve been reading about a number of people in the last few months that thought differently and changed the world. One is R. Buckminster Fuller (“Our power is in our ability to decide.” ), a 20th century architect, inventor, and visionary who promoted the concept of “Spaceship Earth” He came by his “transcendental” thinking naturally, as his great aunt was Margaret Fuller, a close contemporary of Emerson & Thoreau. He didn’t discover his purpose until his mid-30s when he was bankrupt and suicidal, having lost his young daughter to illness. He had an epiphany and decided to devote his life to an experiment, to find “what a single individual [could] contribute to changing the world and benefiting all humanity”. In the 1930’s-40’s he designed efficient cars and buildings including the famous geodesic dome (of which the Tacoma Dome is one of the larger examples). Portland Center Stage had a great one-man play about his life earlier this year. If you want to know more about him, check out the Fuller Institute ( http://www.bfi.org/ )

The biography of Joseph Priestly (I have always been delighted at the prospect of a new day, a fresh try, one more start, with perhaps a bit of magic waiting somewhere behind the morning...”), “The invention of Air” is a fascinating profile of a pivotal figure in the early development of America. An English theologian, political theorist philosopher, and inventor who became friends with Franklin, was much sought after for counsel by Adams, Jefferson and others. He can claim the discovery of oxygen and principles of electricity, the invention of soda water, and was the founder of the Unitarian Church. His life could be described as the hopeful exploration of scientific and spiritual principles

Two more shining examples of hope personified are Helen Keller and Victor Frankl. Helen Keller (“Optimism is the faith that leads to achievement. Nothing can be done without hope or confidence.” “No pessimist ever discovered the secret of the stars, or sailed to an uncharted land, or opened a new doorway for the human spirit.”), although deaf and blind, her insights into the human condition continue to inspire.

Frankl believed that “everything can be taken from a man but one thing: the last of the human freedoms—to choose one's attitude in any given set of circumstances, to choose one's own way." His experiences in a concentration camp formed the basis for his “Man’s Search for Meaning” which lead to his development of Existential Therapy, which encourages one to make new & healthy choices if desiring better outcomes.

All this rambling helps me remember the importance of choices in life and significance in looking forward to those choices. Restoring confidence in our current world is going to require people to step up and participate in new and different ways and I look forward to the adventure. “Good Night and Good.. Hope” -MTP

1 comment:

Rick Seifert said...

Good one, Mike. Here's an addition to your inspirational list — a thought from "As a Man Thinketh" by James Allen.

The chapter "Effect of Thought on Circumstances" begins:

"A man's mind may be likened to a garden, which may be intelligently cultivated or allowed to run wild; but whether cultivated or neglected, it must, and will, bring fourth. If no useful seeds are put into it, then an abundance of useless weed-seeds will fall therein, and will continue to produce their kind ...."