10 Oct 2010


"...They are, I believe, deeply woven into the fabric of experience, and finding real peace depends on being able to accept and live with them.
The first ambiguity lies in the nature of imperfection. It is this: we are idealistic beings, driven to create ideas and objects and to do things of great purity and beauty. We are deeply drawn to these ideas and objects and actions. And yet, the very moment we make ourselves part of them, we seem to find that they are - or become - flawed. There seems to be an unerring tendency in everything we are part of to fall short of ideals and to be imperfect. Indeed, this imperfection can sometimes take on very sinister forms, as we shall see later. Hints of this are there in that interior darkness in the cathedral. Imperfection is deeply part of us, and we are part of it. We cannot escape from this.
The second ambiguity lies in the nature of the end of human progress
. The old Victorian sense of progress ever onward and upward has given way to a much more uncertain sense of where we are heading. What is the outcome likely to be? You can make the bull case or the bear case with about equal conviction. So there is an ambiguity about what the end of it all will be. Climate change brings this into a sharper focus, as did the nuclear arms race in the middle of the last century (with the difference that the climate change is a slow burning fuse, whereas the spectre of nuclear catastrophe had a unique immediacy about it). As life around us improves, and standards of health care and education and recreation all steadily progress, the thought must remain: The world could be less good for our grandchildren. Will we ever get to the point where the job is all done, where humanity has reached a stable, comfortable, peaceful, shared existence on a planet that is sustainable, where individuals are at peace with themselves and each other? Will we get to that, or will there be a different kind of destination: flood and fire, pandemics, conflict on a previously unknown scale?
The third ambiguity lies in the nature of hope. I believe this is the most significant of them all, and the central ambiguity of our existence. It is this: we know that evil is widespread in the world, and yet we believe that something better is possible - we go on hoping, often in the teeth of the evidence. For the most part, in the tortured words of the poet (and priest) Gerard Manley Hopkins, we do "not choose not to be". Even in the darkest times in human history or in our own lives, there still seems to be the recurrent possibility of making the assertion (even though it may at the time be groundless) that hope will endure. We may not know at all what grounds we have for believing it. Why in the midst of awfulness would we believe it? And I am not talking about naive hope. The hope we may find in the midst of evil is not a material hope of a kind that holds that life will get better or that progress is inevitable: it is a hope that is a strange as the evil we know to be endemic in our experience. Can it meaningfully be the response to the question: Why bother?"

by Stephen Green, "Good value - reflections on money, morality and an uncertain world"
Bolds by me

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