F. Scott Fitzgerald’s birthday is Saturday, September 24th, and so is mine, so what better time to write about my very favorite quote in the world.
“The test of a first-rate intelligence is the ability to hold two opposing ideas in mind at the same time and still retain the ability to function. One should, for example, be able to see that things are hopeless yet be determined to make them otherwise.”
I heard the first sentence of that quote long ago. I was pleasantly surprised recently to discover the second sentence.
“One should, for example, be able to see that things are hopeless yet be determined to make them otherwise.”
As always, it is easier to talk the talk than walk the walk. F. Scott Fitzgerald enjoyed, struggled with, and was eventually destroyed by alcoholism. He died at the very young age of 44 from a heart attack, exacerbated by his relentless love of gin and lime, which gives me pause because one of my favorite treats is tonic and lime, without the gin. Maybe that taste for tangy elegance is also a September 24th inheritance. Luckily, I got off the party train when there was still time to spare a few brain cells.
But I digress… as usual…
Here’s my point: to hold two opposing thoughts in the mind at the same time, while still being able to function, seems like it’s asking enough, right? But let’s add Keeping Hope Alive to the mix? How does that feel? Too much? I think not.
To see that things are hopeless and yet be determined to make them otherwise: what a delicious challenge. It sounds like the meaning of life itself. For me it’s a 2-part process:
1- Is the situation hopeless, or am I just feeling hopeless? Big difference. It’s so easy to confuse the two.
There is a lovely “Mood-Triage” acronym used by many people: H.A,L.T. It stands for Hungry, Angry, Lonely, Tired. Any of these four states will distort, magnify, and confuse our judgement. So first, check those areas, and be sure you’re in your right mind, more or less.
2- Second, if you’re okay on all four of those counts, ask yourself, “Does it look hopeless because I am myopic at the moment?” No, I don’t mean that I am near-sighted and wear glasses You can be myopic with 20/20 vision.
That other kind of myopia is when you’re so close to a situation, or a person, that you can’t really see the whole picture. If you sit too close to the screen in a movie theatre, especially during a high-speed chase or a violent attack scene, you’re going to suffer needlessly, right? You won’t even be able to comprehend the entire screen area because you’re simply too close.
When we’re sitting too close, we can also fabricate a sense of urgency for decision-making, because our discomfort is so great. This is the worst time to make a decision!
If your life is not in immediate danger, it’s wiser to push your chair back a bit, or step back to a row in the middle of the theatre and not in the front, take a couple deep breaths and pause.
“Is the situation truly hopeless, or have I been holding my breath? Yes, that’s why this feels urgent, I need to breathe!”
In recent months, running, crawling, stumbling up to publishing my latest book Double Take on September 10th, I learned a life lesson:
If I want to get more done, I must slow down. Counter-intuitive, right? But it’s true.
That’s enough crumbs of food-for-thought for now
How are you feeling lately, with all the loud, conflicting opinions and verifiably dangerous situations floating through the airwaves? Do you “make anything” of your hopeless feelings, or do you just tip your head, say, “Huh…” and carry on, continuing to listen and inform yourself, and also taking a breather from it all once in a while? Can you recognize the difference between discomfort and urgency?
I wish you well during this turning-of-the-seasons time of year. I am planning on a 48-hour party for my big birthday Saturday, deeply indulging in the love of family and friends. Hope abounds.
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Finally, thanks so much for spending some “aloft” time with me.