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the tarnishing of high hope



personal • 29.05.11

Sarah McLachlan said this recently about the idealism in one of her songs:

     •  ... it’s sort of about loss of innocence and the feeling that for every generation there is a group of individuals who will go outside of the norm and outside of society. We'll be the outcasts, and we'll try to make a difference. But it seems, eventually, they all get sucked back in, or they lose their minds completely, so it was kind of a sad thing for me. But I still have that idealism.

It is pathetic to think of oneself as a misunderstood visionary. If I was ever to act like that I’d appreciate a slap. That is not to say that there aren’t people who look to a bigger picture (I do) and even on occasion might actually bring that picture into play (I fail miserably). And although it may be that often the visionaries are indistinguishable from the nutters howling at the moon, between the crazies and the gods are many ordinary idealists who contemplate better possibilities. McLachlan’s point is that their high hope gets tarnished by reality and they either compromise or start howling. Her words made me think about the vision thing particularly the history of my own meanderings in futurism.

I read the other day something I’d written in 2003. In the piece was a summary of the ideals I’d held as a young guy starting out in the 70s. It was a sardonic statement mocking ideology in general and how wrong my predictions had been then. I couldn’t help notice though that there was a resonance these earlier “wrong” thoughts had with the emergent ways of the Internet and its disruptive effect on the old systems. I considered that perhaps my idealism wasn’t as misplaced as I had made out in the 2003 piece.

It made me think about futurism and why some are given to it, why they might consciously set out to make a difference beyond simple existentialist concerns. Not that I can answer that question very well. I certainly don’t subscribe to notions of pre-determination and that somehow futurists are tapping that. I guess it is just a creative force like any other, the similar force that has driven art, philosophy and the sciences down the ages. It is as Darwinian as any of the other drives and it makes its contribution accordingly. As with all artistry, nature produces more than it uses. The rest is left to wither. In the case of those who try to make a difference, the outcasts, as McLachlan says they get sucked back in or they lose their minds.

I have remained an outlier yet just about managed to hold together spiritually despite the terminal frustration. Sarah’s words made me feel less an aberration and more a part of an archetypal process, natural and necessary. I am not a freak of nature but a part of nature. Such comforts don’t of course tell you what to do or where to go. I’ve never known that luxury. I’ve never had a road map or a set of conventions to follow like most do. I am always travelling blind other than for this faint beacon that shimmers in and out of view. Sometimes the darkness is so pervasive that it would be nice just to expire into an invisible non-existence having failed in one’s endeavours. But alas that is not possible as nature has the final say. Nature may produce an excess in idealists but is no less brutal in their disposal.