I like CP Snow's novel "Time of Hope", because so much of its plot resonates with me. It's not that I'm much like its protagonist, or that its plot is much like the plot of my life. It contains some insightful passages about lawyering, although a related Snow novel, "George Passant", describes lawyering in more and better detail. The hero of Snow's novel comes from more humble origins than I do, and takes greater risks than I have taken.
One theme of the book to which I relate is the idea of taking a chance with "eyes wide open". One subplot revolves around staking one's all upon becoming a barrister. Another subplot revolves around taking the plunge upon unrequited love--particularly that love one experiences when the object of one's affection needs one but will not and probably cannot love one. My own experience differs from the Snow protagonist, but the topic brings to my mind the subject of risks taken and hopes suffered.
I've experienced that line of thought that admits the risk in a set of choices and loyalties. The cold, chill knowledge that no matter what happens, one can never blame the object of one's desire. "I am a scorpion, it is my nature", the creature in the fable says, as
both sink to the ground. I think there is a timeless and ageless clarity, a clairvoyant maturity, in that realization that one chooses
freely, knowing of all the risks.
Never blame. Never reproach. Never pretend that a poison chosen was in fact ingested by mistake. In the Snow novel, the protagonist assures himself that he can withstand the results of his folly, but soon begrudges himself his choice. In the denouemont, he realizes that choices have consequences. He chooses to accept his.
Life has so many social contracts. The fine print is so often easily legible. One must accept that one chose after reading far often than one might admit. "It hurts, what I have chosen" is not the same as "it's unfair" or "it's unforeseen". Grasp the rose, find the thorn. Rose-inflicted stigmata serve as reminders about choices regretted.
Life does toss up a wrong card from time to time. Yet I'm intrigued how often the cards are easily read, the trumps counted, and one has that perfect clarity, the refractive lens moment, when everything one foresaw comes true, and the desolate moment arrives.
I spent my teens and twenties choosing my folly with care and with awareness of its folly. I wish I could plead the innocence of youth, but in fact I believe I had the guilty knowledge of pain-in-waiting prior to choosing to grasp for a rose. So often one imagines one can hold a rose, but in fact, petals flutter.
Never bitter. Never quite innocent. Never bewail fates arising from freely-chosen-pains risked with open arms and an open mind. My goal is to process and accept the things I chose, and the costs I willingly undertook. I regret that I have expressed dismay about things about which I could not in good conscience express surprise.
So often it's tempting to pretend that things just happen to one. Perhaps a Chrysler on a roadway does just happen to a pedestrian.
But in my life I have often seen choices I grasped firmly in hand go awry, in just the way I foretold, and the grasping proved not to be marigold but only nettle.
Love conquers all. But the conquered frequently have self-knowledge, and it is a brave and terrible thing. The train flies from the rails,but the engineer saw the tracks ending, but declined to pull the air brakes.
The key, to me, is to stop the memory from accumulating the dross of wounded pride and recitals of rights denied. It's important to remember that one chose this path, and one lived this path, and one eventually found better paths, free of self-inflicted brambles.
I don't always hold that key, but frequently I can grasp it, and turn the lock into my own walled garden.