Tuesday, June 15, 2004

Il Buon Tempo Verra

It is not necessary to hope, said William the Silent, in order to persevere.

Well, he should know. But it helps.

* * *

George Washington and Admiral de Grasse embraced on the deck of the Ville de Paris, when the French finally, finally arrived with serious help for the rebellion. When De Grasse, it is reported -- an even larger man than Washington -- kissed him on both cheeks and greeted him as "mon cher petit general!" Washington's staff found it difficult not to laugh. But somehow I don't think Washington did.

(Washington never lost hope. Why not, I wonder?)

* * *

I hold that man very foolish and very wretched, wrote King Alfred, who will not learn all he can in this life, and ever hope to reach that life in which all will be made clear.

* * *

William Blake wrote:

I shall not cease from mental fight
Nor shall my sword sleep in my hand
Till we have built Jerusalem
In England's green and pleasant land.

* * *

I still say, with Shelley, Il buon tempo verra. The good time will come. Not because I know it will. Not even because I can see that it's at all likely. But because every time I say it, there's a flicker of truth in it at that moment, and it's another piece of life snatched back from Satan.

I used to think it absurd that Christians held hope to be a virtue. William the Silent was my ideal -- face the full despair, and fight on anyway. Clear-eyed, dispassionate evaluation of the odds is what's needed, not soft-headed enthusiasm. But that was back when I bought the pseudo-materialist schtick that the world was there outside of my skull, and my consciousness was here inside my skull, and the two were made of completely different stuff. The world was real, and my thoughts were not.

Now I think that the material world's claims to reality are, if anything, somewhat shakier than those of my mind. My thoughts are not subsidiary to reality. They are part of it.

My only doubt now, is whether it would not be still wiser to say "the good time is already here."

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