Monday, December 11, 2006

don't lower your standards

"My soul would choose strangling rather than life, and the grave is more easy for me than this dungeon.
Shall we be ruled by the Giant Despair?
Be resolved to pluck up in heart and try your utmost to get out from under his clutches.
Let us be patient and endure a while. The time may come that may give us a happy release."

~John Bunyan, from the Pilgrim's Progress

This is the darkest, least sunlit, time of the entire year. What had been bleak in previous times is only made increasingly harsh at this time which carries a bizarre combination of holiday revelry and crepuscular pessimism. Opacity can blind what once had been clear. The murk of turbidity sullies the treasures we have in our very waters.

The protagonist in Pilgrim's Progress unwittingly stumbled into the lands held by the Giant named Despair, owner of Doubting Castle. He was tortured and left for dead in the dungeon, at least until it came to his thoughts that he held the key to his freedom in his vest pocket- metaphorically in his own noble heart.

A wise friend once told me that although hardships are inevitable, misery is still optional. And perhaps as much as misery is the effortless successor to defeat and discouragement, there is that key's worth of recollected adrenaline that bids us to persist with uncynical hope and keep the standard high. In the story, the key actually has the name Promise, and it gives the broken man a traversal through all manner of iron gates so that he can refuse the gutter and resume his way. Recollection allows me to look back at years of endurance and success, and be loyal to it enough to persevere.

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