Three stories are in my mind this evening. The first, from Anthony Trollope's The Last Chronicle of Barset (ch. 61), involves the Rev. Josiah Crawley, an impoverished priest in a rural county who is wrongfully suspected of theft, but cannot prove himself innocent. Crawley receives a letter demanding his resignation from his parish, and melancholic as he has long been, sits in the rain struggling to decide what do. An elderly farmer approaches him, and, after trying to find out what troubles Crawley, takes his hand, and offers him the only advice he can: '
Tell 'ee what, Master Crawley;--and yer reverence mustn't think as I means to be preaching; there ain't nowt a man can't bear if he'll only be dogged. You to whome, Master Crawley, and think o' that, and maybe it'll do ye a good yet. It's dogged as does it. It ain't thinking about it.' Then Giles Hoggett withdrew his hand from the clergyman's, and walked away towards his home at Hoggle End. Mr Crawley also turned away homewards, and as he made his way through the lanes, he repeated to himself Giles Hoggett's words. 'It's dogged as does it. It's not thinking about it.'The second, a parable told by the Doctor in Heaven Sent. The Doctor is trapped in his own bespoke hell--pursued by a childhood nightmare (called the "veil") in a clockwork castle that resets every time the Doctor dies at the Veil's hands, and he crawls, as he dies, to the "reception room" and himself starts the cycle over. If he tells what his captors want him to, it will end. The only thing that does not reset is a crystal wall, labelled "Home." The Doctor chooses to fight on, punching his way through the wall, despite the pain, despite the horrible moment that happens in each cycle when he remembers every previous one, and weeps, wanting to give in. As he struggles on, he tells himself--or his captors--a story:
There’s this emperor, and he asks the shepherd’s boy how many seconds in eternity. And the shepherd’s boy says, ‘There’s this mountain of pure diamond. It takes an hour to climb it and an hour to go around it, and every hundred years a little bird comes and sharpens its beak on the diamond mountain. And when the entire mountain is chiseled away, the first second of eternity will have passed." As the wall finally breaks, untold years later, the Doctor completes the story: "You may think that’s a hell of a long time. Personally, I think that’s a hell of a bird.”One last story. When Clarence Darrow was an old man, a detractor asked him what good his life had been, in view of the continuation of many of the evils had fought against. "Hasn't your life been for nothing?" Darrow replied: "Ask the men I've saved from the gallows. The men and women I've saved from prison."
My point is, if recent events have left you bloodied, exhausted, angry, or near giving it all up--think about how big the task is, and savor the victories along the way, the moments of connection, of friendship, of mutual support. Doing anything worth doing isn't a sprint; it's a marathon. And, slowly, that mountain gets whittled away, that wall breaks. Meanwhile, be good to each other, and to yourselves. And, bear Steven Moffatt's parting advice in mind: