Hope is not all sweet-minded and sweet-eyed as imagined by
armchair intellectuals and best-selling writers when we stumble into moments of
existential vertigo in real life situations. Shakespeare knew a thing about the
nature of hope as an analgesic to numb the strains of daily life thus: “The
miserable have no other medicine but only hope.” So much so that his martyred predecessor
Sir Thomas More, the patron saint of lawyers and statesmen, had already said,
“A drowning man will clutch at a straw.” Even before these two benefactors of
humanity, the humble ancient Greek farmer/poet Hesiod affirmed hope as a
psychosomatic pain relief in the story of Pandora’s Box in which only hope was
left to console crestfallen Pandora deprived of all special gifts from gods.
The didactic gist of this famed myth in his ‘Works and
Days’ is that a belief in predetermination that we have no control over our
life without hope is a delusion, a corollary of fatalism. It is a biological
determinism, which must be vanquished, because according to his practical
wisdom as a farmer, “Hope could come to fruition, since life pairs good with
ill.” This wisdom is viable, since Hesiod as a farmer was a witness to resilient
human spirit against unremitting soul. In this regard, Hesiod’s view on hope as
an antidote to a malady of heart, giving a flickering force of life its meaning
and a sense of purpose that will rekindle reason to continue living in the dark
night of the soul relates to Austrian neurologist and psychiatrist Viktor E. Frankl’s
Logotheraphy, based on an existential analysis focusing on will to meaning, meaning
of life, with freedom of will. Frankl’s aphorism of “what is to give light must
endure burning” must have struck the chords of Hesiod and even Thucydides, the Athenian
political and military historian.
Thucydides saw hope as an illusory idea of vanity and
flattery that weakened man’s will to combat the existential reality. He highlighted
the way delusional aspects of hope that generate a kind of hubris with catastrophic
aftercome. He saw desire and hope hunting together that led man to choose a divisory
lot rather than a realistic approach to life in travail to right the ship in
distress. To Thucydides, hope was nothing more than awareness of odds in our
favor. That is, you don’t have to think about it,but can fight with every hope
of winning. It’s a case of the less you think about, the more you achieve, which
was also addressed by Frankl. We are destined to live purposefully and
meaningfully as a result of responding genuinely to life’s challenges. And hope
is a handmaid to a sense of purpose in life.
The ancient and modern are all united in Theory of Hope
because it helps us look at our fate not at its face value but at its meaning.
Hence the Latin phrase “Amore fati” chips in. We are challenged to change
ourselves to continue living by choosing a right attitude toward life. Nietzsche
sums it up brilliantly as thus: “Those who have a why to live can bear with
almost any how.” And let us not forget what President Theodore Roosevelt advised
us: “When you’re at the end of
your rope, tie a knot and hold on.”
Music has such a charm; it makes bad good and conjures memories of the places and faces of the past with nostalgia in a magical way. It’s a kind of mind teleportation, artistic time-machine, which takes you from the rut of life to anywhere you can dream about. So much so that ever witty and lively William Shakespeare said: “There’s nothing in the world so much like prayer as music is.” Just as reading makes the reader pass over to the literary world of imagination, listening to music carries the listener over to the auditory feast of melodies and rhythms, wonderfully harmonized, all in the mastery of fine musicianship inspired by the Mousal, the music muses, which is demonstrated by the fabulous Biltmore Trio.
Biltmore Trio consists of Ben Lion (Piano), Claire Whitecat (Violin) and Julie Tigress (Flute). They are fine amateur musicians who get together two days a week to play music together for reason none other than being aficionados of music, especially of the Baroque music. All of them have full-time occupations by which they earn their livelihood: Ben is an associate professor of history at Avonlea Community College. He is also an established writer for various magazine and short stories. Claire is a free-lanced book illustrator primarily for children’s books. Julie is a legal secretary working at a busy litigation law firm that would not function without her presence. They are good friends from childhood and share their love of music, books and other interests that pique their intelligent minds with scintillating curiosities. Hence, Biltmore Trio is a musical manifestation of their fellowship in the Appreciation of the Arts and Altruism of Humanity based upon the idea that the beauty of art is for everyone, not a prerogative of a few select. It is important that the public has a right to art because as Oscar Wilde attested, “Nothing can cure the soul but the senses, just as nothing can sure the senses but the soul.” How true it is!
With such tenets of art in mind, Biltmore Trio’s free lunchtime recital of Frederic Hendel’s “The Arrival of the Queen of Sheba” at the eponymous hotel lounge fills the hearts of the audience with mirth and merriment and frames their minds with beauty and alacrity. The trio’s fine musicianship becomes even more brilliant with their milk of human kindness that benefits all regardless who they are and what day do.
A thing of beauty is a joy to them. Its loveliness increases. It never passes into nothingness. Oscar Wilde, who extolled physical beauty as a form of virtue manifested in a physical form, once flamboyantly remarked: “Crying is for plain women. Pretty women go shopping.” Although Seraphina Rabitte and Mathilda Beare demur at such uncharitable notion of meritocracy of women’s appearance, they love visiting beauty stores in a way that little children love going to candy stores (or toy stores to be more realistic these days). For the ladies like to keep themselves prim and proper in the belief that presentable appearance (not a physical symmetry per se) indicates how one takes cares of herself by realizing her creative, attitudinal and experiential values in everyday life.
The belief is grounded in Logotheraphy, one of the three Viennese School of Psychotherapy founded by Dr. Viktor E. Frankl, a neurologist, thinker, psychiatrist, but above all, a remarkable human being who endured personal experiences of Promethean hardships and suffering in Nazi concentration camps and conquered them in triumph of will to meaning. Fashionable and knowledgeable Matilda and Seraphina are students of Logotheraphy, the theory that human nature is motivated by search for a life purpose that is unique to each individual. Unlike other schools of psychotherapy and many other subdivisions thereof, Logotheraphy encompasses a wide scope of the humanities and of course, neuroscience, making it a brilliant multidisciplinary school of thought. In fact, it is a paradigm of the consilience of the knowledge of the humanities and that of science. So, in the context of regarding Logotheraphy, the fashionable ladies’ attitudes toward appearance betokens their ways of preventing noogenic (existential) frustration by engaging themselves in activities to dispel a hint of depression or inertia from their minds, even if it means only going to shopping.
So, you see it isn’t a symptom of conspicuous consumption as a result of our hyper industrialized social environment that Matilda and Seraphina like pampering themselves with cosmetics. Besides, who can blame them for having none other than a woman’s reason? Didn’t Queen Elizabeth also proclaim herself to have a lion’s heart in a woman’s hide? Also, did the Queen not show fierce attention to fairness herself by putting the most fashionable make-up and dresses and hairstyles of her time? Well, these modern ladies are no less different them from their loyal member of sisterhood in the race of Humankind. In fact, Matilda and Seraphina have aristocratic bearings in appearance and manners due to their fine upbringing and sweetness of the mind by nature, so whenever they go, they give admirable impressions on people whom they encounter. They are the paragon of a virtuous woman as John Milton extolled in Paradise Lost: “Those graceful act, those thousand decencies that flow from all her actions and words.”
Author’s Note: Many thanks to the attendants at the Cosmetic Company Store in Camarillo Premium Outlets who kindly permitted me to take pictures in their store.
Great Philosopher Spinoza advised the mankind of how to endure suffering in days of yore: “Emotion, which is suffering, ceases to be suffering as soon as we form a clear and precise picture of it.” The essence of this suprameaning of emotional suffering, which Spinoza also poetically termed Amore Feti (Love of Fate), is to endure what you can’t change but to accept it as it is, for there is a meaning to it in the dark night of the soul. In the terrible ordeal of the tormented soul, one has two choices to make: to yield to the force of deception calling for total abandonment of hope or to force oneself to turn to the voice of hope to sustain strength of the heart. The sovereignty of humanness is manifested by this holy office of selecting the spiritual choice in the darkest hour of the soul in the deepest valley of the abyss. “Hold the Sun in Your Hands: The story of Erika Jacoby”, a short documentary produced by Harvard Westlake-School, is one such tale of a survivor from the atrocity of moral and physical turpitude as a young child at Auschwitz during World War II.
A curious alchemy of illustrative animation and neorealist documentary delivers a momentum of pathos without elaborately scripted lines or special effects in the most powerfully elliptical way, which adds to the authority of truth that the story itself owns. Ms. Jacoby’s straightforward narration without a prolix litany of her woeful past is felt through the heart of the viewer, and it communicates to the mind of the viewer her smothered traumatic experience at Auschwitz, where she had to witness the death of her beloved and the enormity of evil reincarnate in the Nazis’ mass killing of the Jews and the violence against humanity through the eyes of a young girl. Accordingly, the film is seen in the perspective of a young child whose innocence betrays ingenuousness of the story and thus delivers the profoundness of such experience that sublimates it into the highest form of Art in the context of regarding Da Vinci’s aphorism of “Simplicity is the ultimate sophistication.”
This short documentary has chimed the hearts of thousands, including those judges at the Cannes Film Festival, which is one of the most highly regarded film festival (note that it’s not an “award” ceremony where only gowns and jewelry and tuxedos and fake smiles are visible.) in the world. It will be shown at the American Pavilion at Cannes this month as part of a series on young, emerging film makers, one of whom includes Ian Kim, who is son of Mr. Harry Kim, a corporate lawyer at a law firm I am privileged to work. The creators of this documentary will appear on stage at Cannes, ergo it will be a festivity of creation, a festivity of humanity. Above all, the fruit of this film is a triumph of human will that rose above the carnage of war and the degradation of dignity and a manifestation of meaning of life, will to meaning, freedom of will as also corroborated by Dr. Viktor E. Frankl, founder of Logotheraphy and also a survivor of five concentration camps during World War II. Ms. Jacoby shows us what it means to have hope as long as she lives. Dum Spiro, Spero. This documentary will strike the highest notes of your heartstrings.