What's Tony Thinking

Another Side of the Coin


Last week I wrote about being compassionate toward yourself.

Here let’s consider a different theme, one that may appear at odds with practicing compassion toward yourself. That theme is endurance. Sticking with commitments when it’s hard.

I don’t really think these two themes are contradictory, but there may be a tension between these truths.

The theme of endurance was brought to my attention by this poem by Frederick Turner.

“Ride this one out, as you have done before.
Batten down what can be battened. Reef
What can be reefed, avoid the white sea-shore,
Do not expect a rescue or relief.

“Endurance is its own kind of relief.
The other ships are sinking. You must be
Hope’s light for them, the north star of belief,
Time’s substitute for lost eternity.

“And so resist the onslaught of sad thoughts,
That useless, wavering activity
Of mind stretched to its raveled uttermost.
Resist the hopeless cries, the grim reports.
Resist the landsman’s way, to hate the sea.
And hold on for the final sunlit coast.”

The metaphor here is a storm at sea. The counsel of the poet is to “ride this one out,” to endure amid the storm.

“Land” stands for safety, standing back from life’s currents and rip-tides. “Resist the landsman’s way, to hate the sea.” While the sea is all movement, being in the midst of challenge.

“Resist the hopeless cries, the grim reports” — there’s a line for our troubled times if ever there was one.

I recall once reading a great collection of sermons by an African-American preacher, H. Beecher Hicks, titled Preaching in a Storm.

One of Hick’s observations was that in the ministry you are either in a storm, or you’ve just come out of one, or you are about to head into one. There’s not a lot of smooth sailing there. At the time, I found that both realistic and helpful. Still do.

“Endurance is its own kind of relief,” writes Turner.

Sticking with it, not giving up, persisting. You don’t know what will come of it, but you carry on as best you are able.

Not too long ago Linda and I listened, while on a long drive, to Trevor Noah’s memoir, Born A Crime: Stories of a South African Childhood. Perhaps the most prominent figure in Noah’s story, other than Noah himself, is his mother. A very faithful, extraordinary woman. She persisted in her core commitments against all sorts of odds, through all kinds of storms.

Noah depicts his “Mom” with such a rich combination of awe and humor.

As I say, I don’t think practicing compassion for oneself and endurance amid hardship are contradictory (do you?), but that they are both/ and sorts of truths. Both are true.

And at least sometimes, we need encouragement to endure, to “ride this one out, as you have done before.” If this is one of those times for you, take heart. Keep sailing my bold friends, and “hold on for the sunlit coast.”



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