Staying hopeful, like Old Man River
‘What is the height of Optimism?’ my school friend asked me as we sat, munching sarmies (always Marmite) at break time.
‘What?’ I asked.
‘A stowaway on a Kamikaze plane.’
Ha, ha, ha.
Absolutely no idea what a Kamikaze was then. Neither did she, and when I asked my mother, she tried to explain, only by then the joke had lost its punch. I never forgot it.
Optimism is linked to hope, and often that hope seems all too distant, or futile. Awful things are happening in the world. I shudder when I hear stories of fanaticism, of torture, of corruption. The rise of anti-Jewish propaganda, missing planes, gang violence, benefits thugs and watching the Jeremy Kyle show. Enough hatred to bring about another flood across the plains of the earth. And then I realized, nothing new here.
A guided walk through London last weekend once again revealed a city that has risen, fallen, died in flames, and risen again. I touched relics of Roman streets, sat in a garden created within a bombed out church and remembered the Great Fire of 1666. The plague, glad I missed that one (sniffing posies to mask the stench of bodies piled up in the streets). Death by dirt was another one, and then there was always Jack skulking up the alleyways, just waiting to dismember and toss intestines on the street. Two World Wars. Rations and waiting for a knock on the door. A generation lost.
In all that misery, a sense of optimism prevailed. Rather than capitulate, the city simply began again. Centuries of pillaging and death simply washed down the Thames with the new era, and as I stood, listening to the Horrible Histories next to the tower, I also saw the creation of poppies by a modern ceramic artist who took the old and ugly, and made something beautiful out of it. That made me optimistic.
This is not a life lesson. For me, it is a coming to a full stop every now and then and realizing I am this smidgeon in the scheme of things. The world behind me was at times, dreadful, and the times ahead will mean me gone, who knows but that Ol’ Man River :
‘He mus’know sumpin’
But don’t say nuthin’
He jes’keeps rollin’
He keeps on rollin’ along.’
I get to play a dozen roles, and start with the small stuff. Ain’t going to change the world or get the Nobel Prize – but I may still win the Lotto. Not too hopeful of ever getting to like crocs, Malema or haggis, but remain optimistic that Malema will ‘poof’ and common sense will return. That Cormorant Strike never grows old; I do.
What are you optimistic about?