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Issue of September 17, 2014

A hope note
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A hope note
Dr. Wayne Willis reflects on life and hope.

Clawing and scratching

May 14, 2014 | 10:44 AM

"Success is counted sweetest for those who ne'er succeed."—Emily Dickinson

Did Alexander the Great really sit down and cry because he had no more worlds to conquer? We will never know for sure; however, many famous people tell us that achieving success is not all it is cracked up to be.

No one has expressed this more poignantly than Tennessee Williams. Three years after his smashing success with "The Glass Menagerie" and four days before "A Streetcar Named Desire" opened on Broadway, he submitted an article to The New York Times titled "The Catastrophe of Success."

Williams spills more than 2,000 words on how, "snatched out of virtual oblivion and thrust into sudden prominence," he had come to hate being one of the pampered elite.

"The sort of life that I had previous to this popular success was one that required endurance, a life of clawing and scratching along a sheer surface and holding on tight with raw fingers to every inch of rock higher than the one caught hold of before, but it was a good life because it was the sort of life for which the human organism is created ... You should not have too many people waiting on you; you should have to do most things for yourself. The sight of an ancient woman, gasping and wheezing as she drags a heavy pail of water down a hotel corridor to mop up the mess of some drunken over-privileged guest, is one that sickens and weighs upon the heart ... Nobody should have to clean up anybody else's mess."

The one theme of this cry of disillusionment from Tennessee Williams is, in his words, "the vacuity of a life without struggle."

Be careful what you wish for.

Dr. Wayne Willis


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