The Future Is Worth Expecting

Duck Pass, John Muir Wilderness. Source: Wikimedia Commons

In Claire Messud's new best-selling novel, The Woman Upstairs, the protagonist is a frustrated elementary school teacher whose dreams of being a successful artist never came to fruition. This is a common theme in novels, though usually the protagonist is a college literature professor whose dream of being a great novelist didn't pan out.

This is not a position I relate to much. My dreams have never been to be a successful artist or writer. Rather, my goal is simply to write better, a quest for which there is no conceivable end point. For that matter, getting a gig as a college professor looks like a pretty good version of success to me! Maybe the humbleness or lack of specificity of my dreams has held me back from greater achievement. I don't know.

I do know that the lack of specificity is a good tonic against bitterness, and I still maintain the faith that the future will hold greater success for me, even if I can't say exactly how; though I know that this success must relate in some way to becoming a more complete and compassionate person. In other words, while I do, in fact, care about career and money (and have experienced failure in regards to the former), my self worth and deepest ambitions are tied to those things which are within my control, as opposed to the whims of others. And that is why I see life as full of glorious possibilities.

At the end of his Foreword to the book Creating Waldens: An East-West Conversation on the American Renaissance, scholar Ronald A. Bosco cites a journal entry of Henry David Thoreau, written on March 21, 1853, a day when spring was breaking.
It is a genial and reassuring day; the mere warmth of the west wind amounts almost to balminess. The softness of the air mollifies our own dry and congealed substance. I sit down by a wall to see if I can muse again. . . . We are affected like the earth, and yield to the elemental tenderness; winter breaks up within us; the frost is coming out of me, . . . and thoughts like a freshet pour down unwonted channels. . . . Our experience does not wear upon us. It is seen to be fabulous or symbolical, and the future is worth expecting. Encouraged, I set out once more to climb the mountain of the earth, for my steps are symbolical steps, and in all my walking I have not reached the top of the earth yet.


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