st:o- and Solzlienitsn, whom thev regard as representatives of arndead and irrele’ant past. They have given up on hope, and theyrnthink the’ arc better off. One of the new Russian writers said ofrna oung man in Zurich who asked him to speak of hope: “I hadrnno idea what this man meant! For me, literature is a game. Irnsaid, ‘I’m afraid vou’vc come to the wrong place for hope.’ Thernpoor gu’. He’d have been better off in church.”rnDocs the arrival of capitalism rclie’c writers of such responsibilit?rnManv of our own writers e’identlv ha’e come to thernconclusion that it docs. But what would such writers make ofrnthe example of Edward Abbcv who, unaware periiaps of the redemptionrnof capitalism, said of his own books: “They arc meantrnto sere as antidotes to despair.”rnEdward Abbe’s work could be described as the record of anrnunenieal and absolute devotion to the natural wodd, to arnhome landscape, and to the culture and tradition of freedom.rnThis is a de”otion that modern historv perhaps inevitablyrnbrings to the edge of despair. Abbev’s determination not tornsubmit to hopelessness led him to write The Monkey WrenchrnGang, the stor- of a band of people willing to do something tornhead off the destruction of their countrw It is a better novel toornthan a lot of people think, who mav be put off bv its appro’al ofrnx’iolenee to industrial machinerv. An equallv good novel approrning of violence to people would now receive far more respect.rnThe great virtue of Abbey’s c[uartet of saboteurs is tliatrnthc-, like Abbev himself, acknowledge freely and without embarrassmentrntheir love for the things they arc trying to save.rnFrom start to finish Abbev was determined to take lightly whaterner his enemies took seriously, including himself, and so therernis much laughter in his books, but literature to him was hardl- arngame. The makers of antidotes to despair tend to be wcllacc]rnuainted with their opponent.rnAnother source of hope to me has been, and has been increasingly,rnthe work of T.S. Eliot, and by that I mean notrnthe poems and plays individually, but the whole course of hisrnwork, from “The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock” to The ElderrnStatesman. I have had trouble finding anybody among my literaryrnfriends who thinks as highly of The Elder Statesman as I do,rnand et I hold to my belief that, if it is read as the last of a seriesrnof works reaching always toward an elusive redemption, a pilgrimagernof works, that play must be recognized as a triumph.rnAt the beginning, even in the minor poems, we have the wastelandrnfigures, a dismembered humanitv, each one eccentric,rnalone, anxious, and troubled, tottering on the margin of anrnemptiness that is both within them and around them. Andrnfinalh’, by difficult stages, we arrive at the concluding scene ofrnThe Elder Statesman, which is a dialogue of lovers who arernpledging themselves to one another. Eliot, who began withrnthose marginal and fragmented inhabitants of the wasteland,rnobviously thinking himself one of them, has here made his wayrnto the very heart of his faith and his tradition. The woman,rnMonica, speaks for him:rnAge and decrepitude can have no terrors for mc.rnLoss and vicissitude cannot appall mc.rnNot even death can dismay or amaze mernFixed in the certainty of love unchanging.rnIf the play were just a love story, it might be accused of sentimentality,rnbut it is not just a love story: it is the story also ofrndeception and confession, separation and atonement, sin andrnforgiveness. The survivors of the play’s arduous winnowing, byrnforgiving and loving one another have put themselves withinrnthe reach of a love far greater, more compassionate, and morernforgiving than their own. And this also Monica confesses to herrnlover: “Before you and I were born, the love was always there /rnThat brought us together.”rnBut the pla is hope-giving, I think, not just in its message sornunaba.shedly stated at the end, but also in its correct identificationrnof the source of hope in small things such as familyrnrelationships. The elder statesman. Lord Claverton, finds hisrnredemption in putting things right between himself and his sonrnand daughter, not in the great accomplishments of his publicrnlife. This of course follows the Gospels’ insistence that peacernwith one’s brother, peace even with one’s enemy, must comernbefore peace with God. And it follows Confucius’ axiom, “Therngovernment of the state is rooted in family order.”rnTliat ancient wisdom—summed up perhaps in the sayingrnthat charity begins at home—is a good guide because it connectsrnfeeling with practice, reducing the scale of work and placingrnit within the reach of affection. One of the characteristicrnlosses of our age has been in the reduction of hope, along withrnfaith and love, to mere feeling, an event of “body chemistry.”rnWe seem to have mostly forgotten that these were oncernthought of as paramount virtues, requiring practice. It is neverthelessrntrue that hope, if it is to be authentic and if it is to last,rnmust find its work, and this must be doable work, work that onerncan reasonably expect to accomplish.rnThis way of thinking, which may be necessary to our survivalrnas human beings, goes directly against the current of our publicrneducation and public ambition, which never contemplate thernpropriety or the desirability or the pleasure of work on a smallrnscale. Wc do not want to find small answers to small problems,rnor partial answers to parts of problems; we want to find heroicrnanswers, global answers to global problems. We tell our children,rn”You can be everything you want to be,” which is, in everyrnease, a lie. We believe that we are entitled to large, spectacular,rnperfect solutions invented by scientists or politicians. We believernthat we all ought to work in an office and receive a largernsalary.rnThe result, altogether expectable, is work done poorly byrnpeople who think themselves too good to do it. The result isrndisappointment, cynicism, bitterness, boredom, contempt forrnordinar- life and ordinary pleasures—a state of mind that hasrnafflicted both life and art.rnThe result is what my friend Wes Jackson calls “the ain’t-itawfulrnconversation”—a conversation that Wes says we have gotrnto get out of. But we cannot get out by yet more fatuousrnself-regard, or by dreaming more of our over-stuffed dreams.rnWe can get out by hoping for the right things, and by doingrnpromptly and as well as we can the modest work that our hopernrequires.rnLately, as a sort of emblem of my own hope, I have beenrnthinking of a farmer in a poem by the Welsh poet, R.S.rnThomas. The farmer. Job Davies, 85 years old, is mowingrngrass with a scythe early in the morning and he is talking tornhimself:rnWhat to do? Stay green.rnNever mind the machine,rnWhose fuel is human souls.rnLive large, man, and dream small.rnJUNE 1995/15rnrnrn