Notes on Henry Miller’s Tropic of Cancer Episode 7: Hopelessness and Endurance

“Everything is endured – disgrace, humiliation, poverty, war, crime, ennui – in the belief that overnight something will occur, a miracle, which will render life tolerable.”

Giving up belief in miracles means giving up hope, giving up any reason to endure. Henry Miller describes the feeling of giving up hope:

“. . . and now suddenly, inspired by the absolute hopelessness of everything, I felt relieved, felt as though a great burden had been lifted from my shoulders.”

It’s not that miracles can’t happen. It’s just that they probably won’t. And so acting as if a miracle will occur is a mistake. Better to face the probability that nothing will improve, and the only moment you can count on is the present one.

Hope is something that can inspire you to go on. But what does hope inspire you to go on to do? What do you hope for? Hope makes promises about success, wealth, happiness – and the trouble is that such things can be gained by all kinds of means, good and bad. You can become successful, wealthy and happy at the expense of others, and even at the expense of yourself: sacrificing your dreams to your success, if success is bought by conforming to someone else’s rules.

If you can extinguish hope, then you can extinguish that illusion that tempts you to seek personal gain at any cost. You can live entirely for the moment, since it’s all you have.

And the secret is: give up hope, belief in miracles, the reason for enduring – and you’ll endure anyway. A new kind of endurance, grounded in hopelessness.

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2 Responses to Notes on Henry Miller’s Tropic of Cancer Episode 7: Hopelessness and Endurance

  1. Therese says:

    Hopelessness sounds so negative though. I prefer to think of it as “acquiescence” to life.

    Liked by 1 person

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