Thursday, 25 June 2015

Despair is self-fulfilling.

Despair is self fulfilling. It really is. Find me a negative man and I will show you a negative life. Put a man who sees no hope and a man who does together and plot their life trajectory and then sit back with a bag of popcorn and watch. Likely chance is that the former will fall flat before his time and the latter (the hopeful one) will soar when his time comes. Without hope, the people perish. 

So, if you wear despair well, on a daily basis, partner with it in everything you do, share your most intimate moments with it, bring it with you to your workplace, social gatherings, home, dates, holidays, and dining, and even allow it to fill your dreams and wake up every morning with it by your side, then more likely than not, despair will take over your life, completely and absolutely. It will cast a long shadow with you at the center of the bleakness and  commiseration will be your main preoccupation. 

Here is another way of looking at it. It is strange how that dastardly coin always roll to the corner of the room, and comes to a stop at the furthest and hardest spot to reach. Whether this is Murphy's law or random luck or particle physics, I guess the coin was just following the path of least resistance. This is the tendency of despair. When we set our mind to despair, for whatever reason or cause, our life script follows the path of least resistance. We are led to the garden-path of gloom and doom so to speak. It is a cruising ride downhill. 

We don't even know how self-fulfilling it could be. It is that sneaky and insidious. It is no less a slippery slope where we slide deeper and deeper without any self awareness of it whatsoever. In fact, if we dwell long enough in despair, we effect an emotional climate change within and around us and this changes everything we see, feel, touch, think and talk about. The image I see here is the tweaked version of the tragic Midas' touch where everything we encounter turns cold and old and eventually folds and rolls over. Dead.

So despair is not only self-fulfilling, it is self-defeating. The opposite of despair then is hope. It is faith. It is belief. It is the belief that is based on hope and faith. I guess the crucial difference between them is vision. Despair sees reality as it is but hope confronts it as it has yet to become. Despair's sight is limited to what is immediate and hope casts its sight further, even beyond the horizon. Despair embraces what has unfolded and hope embraces what is still unfolding. Despair therefore accepts its fate; hope however changes it, challenges it. 

For despair, a negative is a negative is a negative. And to borrow the analogy of developing film in a dark room, despair sees only the negative but hope sees the emerging picture as it comes into sharper focus. Indeed without hope, we all perish. The hopeless thus lives from one day to another while the hopeful lives a full life in a lifetime. For a person who hopes for the best in the worst of circumstances, hope is likewise self-fulfilling. If hope is about believing for a better outcome or eventual recovery, then the same will ultimately come to pass and we have this cliché to thank: "What doesn't kill you will make you stronger," and if I may add, "better, wiser, sharper, more resilient and even more creative.

Here is a life that exemplified all that. He is an Israeli major named Rami Harpaz. 

Chased by an anti-aircraft missile, Rami ejected from his plane and landed in hostile enemy territory. He became a prisoner of war of the Egyptian ground forces. For three years in captivity, and locked in solitary confinement, Rami refused to give in to despair. He in fact kept himself busy. He implemented a daily physical regimen of running in a tiny eight figure in his dinghy cell until he had clocked 4 miles. 

When he was not running, he kept his mind busy with mental challenges like making a list of prime numbers from 1 to 1000. Altogether he identified all 169 different prime numbers. As the days got longer, Rami turned his cell into an imaginary garden and extracted cottonseed from his mattress. He then inserted them between the cracks in the wall as a farmer would plant seeds in the field. 

Later, Rami was transferred to a bigger cell with other inmates and he spearheaded a book project. One of the ambitious projects was to translate Tolkien's The Hobbit into Hebrew. After he was released, Rami recalled fondly about the project, "We tried to convey the atmosphere and the spirit of the story, and this raised our creativity to its climax. The four months dedicated to this project was a beautiful period, full of elation; it gave us a sense that we were winning against the whole world.

When the translation was completed, it was promptly published. It is in fact one of only two Hebrew translations of Tolkien's work. 

Rami lived his three years in the worst of circumstances but he did not give up hope. He made the most of what was handed to him and he turned it into a world class gym, a brilliant garden and a community-driven, life-transforming book project. Truly, regardless of where you are placed today, whether good or bad, you can choose either to make your life a graveyard of buried hope or a harvest field of realized dreams. Choosing the latter is not a delusional act or idealistic or wishful thinking. It is called bending reality towards hope and not surrendering it to despair. Cheerz.

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