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#1650: the consolation of philosophy : Bell reflects

From: madison bell <mbell@goucher.edu>

I remember, oh, two or three years ago, a debate broke out in this forum 
along the lines of what is to be done, &c.  List-master Bob replied with a 
long message which included his thought (I paraphrase from memory which may 
be inaccurate) that he himself had long ago concluded that Haiti's 
situation was hopeless on the large scale.  The problems were too vast to 
be solved and they weren't going to be solved.  All he could do-- all 
anyone could do-- was nibble at the boundaries of the problem and maybe 
help a few individuals a little bit.

Now, this puzzled me considerably at first.  Bob Corbett was someone I had 
already come to admire a whole lot more than anyone else I'd never actually 
met.  I knew he was and for long time had been spending huge amounts of 
time and energy trying to make things better for Haiti and for Haitians in 
any way that he could.  How could anyone do this from a posture of despair?

A philosophical conundrum, I figured.  After all, the gentleman was a 
philosophy professor.  I might leave it at that and try to forget about it.

However I didn't manage to forget it and it kept coming back to me, 
especially when I felt discouraged and felt like giving up.  (as if the 
hope and part-time effort of one fly-weight person such as myself mattered 

  In time I arrived at my own interpretation (it may be wrong, and Bob is 
not responsible for it!)

The normal assumption is that when hope is lost, the only thing to do is 
give up and quit.  How can you keep on with anything you've admitted to 
yourself is hopeless?  But hope is a fragile thing, after all.

Suppose there were people who kept on struggling without hope.  Such people 
would be very hard to stop, no?   What could be taken from them that would 
stop them, if they were able to persist without hope?  Such people would be 
almost impossible to stop.

So.... nou pa dekouraje!   ... pa janm.

Bonne annee, A Pye Nou Ye to all, with special thanks to Bob for keeping us 
all connected.  And if the whole email system goes down the drain in the 
next few hours, I hope to meet a lot more of you face to face.