Hope and Endurance

Hope and Endurance

Monday, Apr 22, 2024

Hope and Endurance


It’s April.  The days are getting longer.  Here in California the trees and flowering plants are sending forth rivers of pollen which irritate those of us with allergies, but they more than make up for this by their lovely blossoms and fresh greenery.

For bibliophiles around the world, April also means the New York Book Fair (THE New York Book Fair, properly termed the “ABAA New York International Antiquarian Book Fair”), which I flew out to attend.

Being a lover of “real” books, I perused my personal bookshelves the morning of departure to find something to read during the flight.  My eyes lit first on Amor Towles’ Rules of Civility and then on Henry James’ Washington Square.  Which one to bring?  Not having time to decide, both books promptly went into my carry-on.  I had read them both previously, many years ago, and felt it was time to read them again.

Imagine my delight when I realized that both books were based in….yes, Manhattan.  I first saw the island and its people through the eyes of Katey Kontent and reveled in her observations of the city and its people in 1938.  Upon completing Towles, I turned my attention to James – travelling back in time, as it were, as Washington Square is a story firmly anchored in the 1840s.  Yet to be built was the Empire State Building and the huge statue of Atlas directly across from Saint Patrick’s.  In James’ novel, pigs and chickens still roam the streets of Manhattan.

As I was walking up 5th Avenue, with St. Patrick's Cathedral to one side and the monumental statue of Atlas on the other, I was struck by how iconic they are and what a wonderful balance they strike.  On the one side is the church….the symbol to many of hope.  And on the other side stands Atlas, who carries the weight of the heavens on his shoulders….the very symbol of endurance.

And I vowed to keep this mental picture before me.  There are so many trials and tribulations in the world today that one sometimes is tempted to succumb to despair.  But “There are more things in heaven and Earth, Horatio, Than are dreamt of in your philosophy” and the twin lessons of the Cathedral and Atlas ought not to be forgotten.

Hope and endurance.