Choosing the Chase: the power of hope
Handsome told me about a really interesting photo he saw recently. Two signs are hanging on a fence, not quite even. One of them says “You Matter.” And the other says “Don’t Give Up.” But because they’re next together, you could read them as saying “You Don’t Matter. Give Up.” It’s all in how your mind takes it in. And I’d argue, what your mind chooses to take in.
Now the point of the photo is to be funny, but I think there’s something really important in it. We see evidence all the time that can be used to argue one point or another. For example, I see a squirrel a few meters away from a tree; is that good news for me (I can chase him and catch him), or for him (he’s close enough to get up the tree before I get there)?
Or maybe a boy you like at school asks you what you got on a question from last night’s math homework. Does that mean he was looking for a reason to talk to you, or that he’s only interested in you because you’re good at math? Same evidence, different reading.
Or… We’ve all seen a sixteen-year-old girl speaking out about how humans have been ignoring the damage they’re doing to the planet, while governments and industries dismiss or deny her words. Does this mean the human race is moving forward into a new era of ecological responsibility? Or that ‘The System’ is too powerful for even the strongest voices to change anything?
Both. Or Either.
So let me go back to that squirrel (as I’m highly inclined to do). Now I could decide that he’s too close to the tree, and not chase him, and I’d be fine. I wouldn’t have the fun of chasing him, or the thrill of catching him, but I’d be no worse off than I was before. Or I could chase him and fail to catch him, and feel some disappointment. Or I could chase him and catch him, yippee!
There’s not a right choice, or a wrong choice. But, as some serious philosophers who know a lot more than I do have said, the choice I make defines me, at least to a certain degree. Either I’m the kind of dog who takes the chance to chase that squirrel, or I’m not. And in the long run, that definition will matter a lot more than whether or not I catch him. It’ll be my essence.
So when that cute boy asks you for that help, who are you? Are you the girl who tells him “no,” because you’re sure he’ll only hurt your feelings by ignoring you afterward? Or are you the girl who helps him but then runs away out of nervous shyness? Or are you the girl who says “I can give you the answer, but that’ll only help you for the moment. Want to meet up after school at the library, and I’ll explain it to you so you can pass the test as well?” Oooh, I know which one I’d want to be!
Now again, he might say no. He might be busy, or he might be a horrible jerk who says “No, if people saw us together it’d ruin my reputation,” and you’ll cry all night.
But again, who are you? How you choose to look at his question will define that.
In my country, we have a leader who most voters didn’t want; he got elected by a weird rule from 230 years ago that really makes no sense. Since then, he’s never gained popularity, and a lot of people who hadn’t known what to think of him now see him as a lying criminal. The next election is later this year, and the opposition party is engaged in a big battle for who they’ll nominate to go up against him, but in most polls, every one of them comes out ahead of him.
So why is it that, every day, I hear people bemoaning the “fact” that he’s going to get re-elected? He’s unpopular, he’s lost far more supporters than he’s gained over time, and he’s gotten caught at numerous illicit activities. So why aren’t they celebrating? Yes he might win, through fair or unfair means, but the odds are in their favor. So why?
It’s those signs. They’ve gotten so used to being disappointed about him, they’re seeing “You Don’t Matter. Give Up.” Instead of the other. They’re seeing the squirrel being close to the tree, not just out of distance of it. They’re seeing the polluters win over the outspoken girl. And they’re preparing themselves for the boy to ignore them after getting that right answer.
Of course, some goals are unattainable (I can’t catch flying birds) and some are easy (I never have trouble getting the dinner Handsome leaves out for me). All I’m talking about is the in-betweens. The Hards. But again, you get to choose what you do when you see those. And that means you get to choose exactly who you are.
A beautiful old song sings, “The difficult I’ll do right now. The impossible will take a little while.” That might be taking things a bit far, but I can tell you, until I get so old my legs can’t lift me up, I will always chase that squirrel. Not because I’ll catch him. Just because I don’t want to be that dog who doesn’t.
Be who you choose.
After all, who else would you want to be?!