The Power of Hope

Recently, I came across an old writing sample of mine that I think accurately highlights the importance of the concept of hope in my life. Still, to this day.  Hope is a beautiful thing in my book.  As Andy Dufresne said “Hope is a good thing, may be the best of things. And good thing never dies.” I wrote this nearly twenty years ago.  It’s a bit hokey, silly and odd I will admit, but it also reflects, even today where I think I would stand if in this world, in this lifetime, I was offered unequivocally the answers to all of life’s mysteries. . .

“Slow down you maniac! I have something to tell you! Speed limit is 55 not 85” exclaimed John.

The dust rose from the narrow country road as the pick-up truck sped on by with no concern for John sitting alongside the lone bench on the side of the road.  Although only a mere ten miles from the town’s four corners and the university on most quiet late spring mornings it felt like the bus stop was on another planet.

But not today. . .the clatter of a Ford F150 made sure of that.

“The idiot must not have heard me” sighed John, as he starred off with indignation toward the pick-up, watching it become at first a tony dot on the horizon and then vanish all together.

Only a few houses were in the immediate area.  Most folks live in and around the four corners or on university property.  Only a few faculty members as well as people connected to the regional psych center lived out in the outskirts of town.  The regional psych center was only about six or seven miles away and beside the university was far and away the largest employer in the county.

The relationship between university administration and its faculty was an interesting one.  The university seemed to tolerate them only for their own self-interest.  It was felt by university officials that in order to become a top-notch institution of higher learning, attract any and all money to add to the ever-growing endowment the faculty had to run the complete ideological spectrum.

“It’s wonderful on paper but is really a bunch of bullshit if you ask me” said John.  “The need and desire for a diverse faculty is not the bullshit part, I think that is great but unfortunately faculty members feel marginalized once they get here, they don’t get a ton of administrative support.  It’s almost as if the university is merely going through the motions and checking off boxes.”

It had been nearly a week since Dr. Nelson passed away.  Dr. Nelson had been on the university faculty just over fifteen years and lived in close proximity to the bus stop- John had been with him for the last seven.  Yes Dr. Nelson was on of those faculty members that did not feel fully supported by the administration, perhaps because his field of work came across as a bit risqué for university officials.  A sweet, considerate and brilliant middle-aged man he was in the Political Science department.  His passion was extreme politics and students practically knocked down his door to get into his classes.

Why was that?  Probably because he was highly effective at getting any and all intel on all sorts of political groups- far right, far left, anarchists. . .it didn’t matter.  His classroom lectures were the stuff of legend. 

At this point it should be noted that John was Dr. Nelson’s seeing-eye dog.  A fine-looking yellow lab at that.

Said John- “I knew it was a bad idea for us to go to his nephew’s high school graduation.  He didn’t look good.  Besides, we just got back from our annual political science conference in New York which always wipes him out.  Moreover, the university’s own graduation followed a few days after which he needed to rest up for.  Alas, his favorite nephew was graduating high school- a can’t miss event in his book which I respect.  The entire day turned out to be awful, not only did he have a heart attack immediately after the ceremony that left me unemployed, but the graduation itself was terrible.  Why is it that every valedictorian’s speech has to included a paraphrased version of Robert Frost’s poem The Road Not Taken.  That road which has supposedly made all the difference is practically a four-lane highway with every high school graduation speaker from the last decade on it.”

John was not always this jaded; Dr. Nelson’s death was surely behind it.  After the burial at the cemetery not too far down the road from the bus stop John wandered off from those few that gathered for the funeral.  He was frustrated with the frank and candid discussions many had with each other about what they had in store for him.  John was around the house only until the others returned a day later to pack Dr. Nelson’s belongings whereupon John set out in the neighboring countryside on his own, never wanting to get close to humans again.

“What time is it? There’s never a human when you need them” John wondered impatiently.

It had felt like an eternity since the Ford went by.  For John deep down there was nothing worse than being alone at places that were designed by their very nature for interaction and intersection of the public- like this bus stop.

On the horizon a dot approached and started slowly to take shape as it got closer and closer.

“Please, not another truck, not another truck, YES! A bus! It’s about freakin’ time” John Screamed.

I remember waking up to what sounded like a dirt road under the bus’ tires.  Still very much out of it, I squinted my eyes to get my bearings and starred out the window to countryside and woods as far as I could see.

“This bus ain’t going to the university” I thought.

I looked around at my fellow busmates to get confirmation on this dreadful feeling.  It was at this time that I realized judging the clientele my best bet would be to go up to the bus driver.

“This bus going to the university?” I inquired.

“No.” The driver said.

I waited for more of a response, but that was it. 

“Well do you know how I can get there?” I pressed.

“Yeah”. He replied.

“Mind telling me?” I said growing impatient.

“See this stop coming up on the right. . .be a bus along in two hours that goes to the university.”

“Two hours?!” I echoed.

“Well maybe not, if your lucky only an hour and forty-five.”

The bus slowly pulled up and came to a halt.  I thought, it could be worse, it could be raining.  Still two hours was not too appealing for me.

I grabbed my bag and hopped off the bus figuring I was probably gonna miss my interview at the university.  Hopefully, I will be able to get squeezed in later in the day.  I plopped down on the bench and my life as I know it has been changed ever since. . .

“Took the wrong bus, huh?” a voice said.

“What? Who said that?” I replied.

“It’s me down at this end, here.  My name is John and I am currently an unemployed seeing-eye dog with information.”

“You can talk” I said astonished and bewildered.

“Yeah and you’re the first one I have talked to, so you better be worth it, kept my muzzle shut for eight years.”

“How did you learn to talk? I am not on candid camera am I?” I said looking around suspiciously.

“As a seeing-eye dog I am around people all the time.  People at the university who are brilliant.  I guess it just rubbed off on me somehow” John stated.

“That’s ridiculous! Dogs can’t talk!” I protested.

“Okay have it your way” John said intentionally turning his head.

A few minutes went by of me trying to grasp the situation.

“If you can talk, how come other dogs can’t talk?” I questioned.

“I don’t know. . .who says they can’t talk.  I went eight years without talking. . .All I know is that I woke up one morning being able to talk and process similar to humans.”

“Did your owner know?” I questioned.

“Dr. Nelson? Christ no, don’t you humans listen. . .I said you are the first person I have spoken to.”

It was at this point that I swore I was in a dream.  However, as try as I might I could not escape the reality of conversing with a yellow lab.

“Are you God?” I said in disbelief of the fact that I am directing this question to a dog.

“Just spelled backwards” John said jokingly and laughing out loud.

“Okay, you’re not God, but a seeing-eye dog that can talk from supposedly interacting and being around smart people at the university.  How did you get out here?” I asked.

“My owner, Dr. Nelson died and the burial was down the road.  We lived out here. . .I did not want to get shipped out to another owner or be around humans anymore so I headed out into the woods on my own. . .until something happened which brought me to this bus stop.”

“What happened?” I inquired.

“The other night in the woods while I was sleeping ultimate truth about humanity and this world came to me.”

“C’mon!”

“I am serious. Why do you think I am finally speaking after eight years of silence.”

“What is that anyways? Ultimate truth!”

“I know everything humans have ever wondered about themselves.  I have the correct answers to everything. Why humans are here? What the meaning of life? Is there a God? Is there heaven? Is there hell? The secrets of love and all the mysteries of science and the universe.”

Although still very skeptical at this point, I was a bit intrigued and decided to continue on.

“Why would humanity’s ultimate truth be bestowed on a seeing-eye dog? Many humans already believe they discovered the ultimate truth.  Take Buddha for example.”

“If that is the case that Buddha found ultimate truth then why are you not a Buddhist?  Why is Buddhism not the only religion?” John retorted.

I sat puzzled for a minute then John continued.

“I possess knowledge of universal truths that unites all of humanity.  It may render religions useless and provide all the answers to life’s mysteries.  Perhaps I received this knowledge because I can speak, because I interact with humans, however I am not a human myself.”

“This is bizarro” I replied.

“Humans have always put forth answers to the questions about life’s mysteries and because of this humanity has created an infinite way of answering such questions- art, literature, music, science, religion, etc. humans therefore are naturally skeptical when other humans maintain that they know the ultimate truth.”

“If I believe you would you tell me?”

John replied, “That’s why I am at this bus stop, to offer the first person I encounter the ultimate truths.”

“Why should I believe you?”

“For two reasons, one I am telling the truth. Second, when was the last time you had a conversation with a dog that talked back to you. This conversation flies in the face of everything.”

I looked down at my watch and realized that I had well over an hour until my bus came.  I told John that I needed some time to think about this proposition.  He assured me that after our conversation he no longer was going to speak again at least to humans.

As my bus for the university approached I looked over at John who was patiently waiting for my answer.  Finally, I turned to him and asked-

“You got the answers to everything? The ultimate truths, huh?’

“Yes.”

After another brief pause and deep sigh I said, “I don’t think I want to know the ultimate truths right now.”

Just then the bus pulled up which I boarded and headed off to my interview.

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