One of my favorite movie lines is, “What if this is as good as it gets?” Watch the movie trailer here.
This scene takes place in a shrink’s office after Melvin Udall’s (Jack Nicholson) doctor tells him that he needs an appointment. The doctor is pleased that Udall maybe taking responsibility and he acknowledges Udall’s difficulty with that. Have you ever asked yourself, is this as good as it gets?
Let’s answer this empowering question with, “It is what it is.” But, it’s more than that, and it applies to life.
Sometimes, feelings of sadness or depression blow through me like gusts of wind through the branches of trees. These visiting emotions last just long enough, and are disturbing enough, to let me know they visited. Then, just as quickly, they’re gone. I feel normal again. I know the feelings aren’t far away and they will return. When they come back, I have no way to expel them. These feelings have their own will; one I don’t control. When they return, I hope they don’t stay long.
I fancy myself a happy person, although I find happiness in my own way. Life is about how we feel. I love life and living – being me. I accept reality, which gets a bad rap for being negative. Life is what it is, which is mostly good for me. I know it’s good from my experience with when it was bad. I don’t like feeling desperate, but I feel hopeless at times. It’s not the same as depressed.
I’m hopeful about many of the things over which I have no control. When I fly, I hope the airplane doesn’t crash. When I drive through the I-90 tunnels toward Seattle, I hope there’s not an earthquake. Fear could prevent me from doing either. Planes crash and earthquakes happen. In The Road Less Traveled, Scott Peck talks about denial keeping us from dying of freight. I’m not sure about that, but it might help me get to Austin. It’s not denial – shit happens.
However, I am willing to work with my feelings of hopelessness. I’m not referring to the charming but hopeless romantic, or being merely incompetent (Bill’s hopeless). And I’m not talking about sadness, fear, or denial. I’m talking about the feeling that can cause despair (being without hope). Back in the day, ‘twas that conclusion I expressed when I’d say OMGIF! (Oh my God, I’m fucked).
Some things are hopeless. While my online dictionary defines hopelessness as causing despair; being desperate, wretched, demoralized, or impossible; I prefer a simpler hopelessness: feeling the loss of hope. And hope is “a longing for a future condition over which you have no agency (control, influence, or power); it means you are essentially powerless.” (Derrick Jensen)
I recall an audio tape where the narrator asked, “What is the best hoped-for outcome of any relationship?” My answer is best expressed in the movie The Notebook. What I like most about that movie is Noah, who never gives up on his love for Allie despite their apparent hopeless situation. Spoiler alert: they don’t live happily ever after (which is my point). But they do have a great life.
Think of the Buddhist issue with desire as the cause of all of our problems. Is a desire not something hoped for? Two related Buddhist sayings are: “Hope and fear chase each other’s tails,” and “When you give up on hope, you turn away from fear.”
Time for some philosophical music….
Is it all dust in the wind? Are we? Metaphorically, perhaps so; in reality, we will be. The song talks about the impermanence of passing time, the endlessness of earth and water, and the certainty of death, whereby our only immortality is by returning to earth and water.
Embracing hopelessness is not the same as giving up. It’s a form of acceptance. It is time for us to do what we can. It is time for our action. It helps us to live more in the present moment. We rely less on tomorrow being a better day. I’ve been accused of being negative when I defended reality. Others may want to live in fantasy, to deny reality to the point of making things worse (i.e., not seeking medical assistance), but that feeds denial and makes things worse. Accepting things as they really are, even when hopeless, gives us a better life.
I read this good article about hopelessness in the Orion Magazine called “Beyond Hope,” by Derrick Jensen. He talks about hopelessness as a general topic, but specifically applies environmentalism as an example. Hopelessness does not deprive us of that final act of defiance.
As we accept the reality of hopelessness,
we need to look both ways and mind the gaps.