The Path Ahead Humbles All Hopes

I had a strange dream. It was a long, involved dream, but at some point I was sitting at a supper table with some strangers. A man — a rough-hewn, preacherly “head-of-the-household” reactionary type — was giving the table a stern lecture in the necessity of the Protestant ethic. As he was browbeating the assembly with his moral lecturing my attention was attracted to a train that was passing outside. On the railcars of the train was written what appeared to be the rail company’s commercial slogan, in quite flamboyant large script: “The Path Ahead Humbles All Hopes”.

It was at that point that I woke up, but in a very lethargic mood. The distastefulness of the patriarch’s moral hectoring combined with the dreadful message on the side of the passing train was completely enervating. It affected my mood for the rest of the day.

I don’t know what the dream was attempting to say. “The Path Ahead Humbles All Hopes” isn’t something I would have concluded in my waking hours. It’s Dante’s slogan that appears over the gates of Hell — “Abandon Hope All Ye Who Enter” (“Look upon me and despair!”. And yet Dante himself entered and survived it. ). And images of trains I usually associate with the (very Nietzschean-themed) movie Runaway Train. No happy endings.

Whose hopes? The Preacher-Man’s hopes? The final frustration of his moral worldview? It seems likely because the passing train wasn’t in my own line of sight. It was in his direct line of sight as he delivered his sermon on the Protestant ethic. In my dream, I had to crane my neck to the left to see what was in his line of sight. It seems, then, that it was intended for his vision moreso than mine. although he apparently did not see it because his attention was focussed on those seated at the table, consuming what was a pretty Spartan meal of ground beef and onion.

“The Path Ahead Humbles All Hopes” has that ambivalent character typical of the Oracle at Delphi — the same dream-like ambivalent quality that is fairly characteristic of the mythical consciousness — almost maddening in its ambivalence. Was it intended for me or for the sermoniser? Perhaps it was meant for both of us.

Hopes are expectations. And perhaps the dream wanted to say that the “chaotic transition” we appear to be going through will humble our expectations about the outcome. (Surprise! This is not what anyone expected!) Perhaps it’s not such a dreadful thing if so — that the hopes of the reactionary and the hopes of the revolutionary will both be humbled. All specific hopes will be humbled, says the slogan on the train, but not necessarily hopefulness itself.

At least, so I tell myself.

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3 responses to “The Path Ahead Humbles All Hopes”

  1. davidm58 says :

    I like this phrase, “the path ahead humbles all hopes.”

    Sometimes I’ll hear people say something like this:
    “The more I understand hope, the more I realize that all along it deserved to be in the box with the plagues, sorrow, and mischief; that it serves the needs of those in power as surely as belief in a distant heaven; that hope is really nothing more than a secular way of keeping us in line.”
    “…And when you quit relying on hope, and instead begin to protect the people, things, and places you love, you become very dangerous indeed to those in power.”(Derrick Jensen, Beyond Hope)

    Although I understand to some degree where people like this are coming from, I think they misunderstand the deeper concepts available in the word ‘hope.’ We often say things like “I hope it doesn’t rain this weekend,” or “I hope I will win the lottery.” This is a shallow use of the word, and is really mere wishful thinking that then becomes an excuse for not taking action.

    With my Christian background, I’m reminded of how the New Testament defines hope, as “the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen” (Heb 11:1). Hope is a parallel of faith. Hope is an expression of faith during times when that faith is challenged. It is a trust in God, or the universe, that no matter what happens in the short term, in the long term it is all going to be OK. It’s why someone like Michael Dowd describes himself as an Apocaloptimist (March 27 with Terry Patton on Beyond Awakening: http://www.beyondawakeningseries.com/archive/ )

    And so, I do not think it is appropriate to “Abandon Hope.” But I do think it is very useful to check our assumptions about the future, and to let go of false optimism and wishful thinking, Particularly at this time, we need to lower our expectations of the “bright future” we think we’ve been promised. The path head humbles all hopes, indeed.

    Gebser, on page 96 of The Ever-Present Origin makes a curious statement. He writes that “only a completely new attitude [completely different from that of the Sermonizer in Scott’s dream] will guarantee the continuation of the earth and mankind.” Yes folks, the situation is that serious, that the survival of earth and humankind are threatened.

    He says if this new mutation of consciousness does not occur soon (writing at latest in the early 1950s), then we can expect events that “will make the previous events of our time [such as WWI and WWII and the Great Depression] look like child’s play.”

    The curious thing is that he follows this sentence by saying “If we are soberly prepared for this, then there is nothing terrifying about it; it will be terrifying only to those who feel threatened, and they will be the ones affected.”

    Hmm, who are those who will not feel threatened or affected by the destruction of earth and humankind? I can only think it will be those who have “soberly prepared” and humbled their hopes and who are able to live day to day experiencing the reality of their ever-present origin.

  2. abdulmonem says :

    On mentioning the protestant ethic by the head of the house dreamer, I wanted to know how this protestant ethic had morphed into a non- ethical conduct of exploitation ,theft and subjection of others through falsification and lie,and murdering the truth through the false flag of ethic for me but not for you. How these atrocities have been kept out of the screen of the people who have been brought up on the relics of these atrocities. This make me think how the ugly past can be a haunting ghost to the future and how this is connected to the mood of Gebser and to the dream of no hope and to Nietzsche visitors from the past. They say lie dies but truth never dies. Please do not be angry I say this only because of the need for the soberly prepared. As Rumi says I ought to be silent but truth says this is not time for silence. Let us collect the parts and look at the whole because the disease of fragmentation and separation have been mutilating the human sobriety and integral consciousness for too long. I hope not to lose hope in time of darkness, because hope is faith as Dave said that lit the way to see in this darkness, remembering the bipolar nature of god the truth behind everything that can not tolerate hypocrisy and lie,only for a certain span of time, the human is ignorant of. I think you are familiar with France Fanon who has covered this sad, hypocritical story. Our time no longer accept the western motto, to be honest with this sect and be dishonest with the other sect, this is not the path of truth. May we all wake up to the purity and honesty of the words, to save this sinking ship.

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