11/07/2010

The Perpetual Pursuit of Persistence

Sometimes I feel like I am Charlie Brown in his hopeless, never ending quest to kick the football Lucy holds for him, which she inevitably yanks away just before he makes contact. We all know what's going to happen, despite Lucy's promises that this time will be different, that she won't pull the football away. But she always does.

Lucy never has any intention of letting Charlie Brown kick that football. But somehow she always manages to talk him into trying. And Charlie Brown winds up flat on his back, the breath evacuated from his lungs from the effort, berating himself for falling for Lucy's trick once again. But no matter how much Charlie Brown hurts, no matter how many times Lucy yanks the rug out from under him, he knows, and we know, that the next time Lucy dangles that thread in front of him, Charlie Brown will once again talk himself into the attempt, vowing (pleading?) this time will be different.

Why, after all those years and all that time on his back, the wind knocked out of him, does Charlie Brown persist? Is he delusional? Does he honestly think the next time will be different, despite all evidence to the contrary? Does he forget how it felt the last time, and the time before that, putting all his effort into one mighty swing of the leg, only to wind up the victim once more of Lucy's prank?

Perhaps Charlie Brown is a masochist. Perhaps he knows how futile his efforts are, but he goes along with Lucy's game anyway, because, hey, at least someone is paying attention to him.

Is it the exhilaration Charlie Brown feels as he psyches himself up for each new, doomed attempt what keeps him coming back for more? Deep down he knows he's going to fail, but he needs to make the effort anyway, to at least feel something, anything. The agony of defeat is no less potent than the thrill of victory. It's a rush, racing through the yard, fallen leaves crunching beneath his shoes, and even though he knows what the result is going to be, those few, fleeting moments as he races toward the ball are worth it.

Because it's better to make the attempt and fail than to not make the attempt at all.

Or.

Or does Charlie Brown have such a deep reservoir of hope? Does Charlie Brown believe that what's past is past and the future isn't set in stone? Yes, Lucy may have yanked the football away 100 times, 1,000 times before, but that was before. That's not this time. This time will be different. This time, he thinks, I'm going to kick that football. Because this time is not last time.

And yet, this time is exactly like last time. Lucy pulls the ball away and Charlie Brown finds himself lying in the dirt, wondering why he fell for her prank once more. And it hurts. Physically, yes, but also mentally. It's exhausting, the rush of adrenaline, his heart pounding in his chest as he runs toward the football. And Charlie Brown vows to never again fall for it.

But he does.

Every time.

And so the question remains: Why?

Why does Charlie Brown persist?

Because to not attempt to kick the football is to give up. If Charlie Brown doesn't try to kick that football, he might as well curl up in his bed, turn out the lights and wait for death to claim him. Because there is no life in giving up. It is the attempt that matters, not the result. It is the attempt that gives Charlie Brown a reason to wake up every morning. It is his persistence of belief that this time is not the last time, that this time could be different, that this time will be different, that drives him.

If not this time, then next time, Charlie Brown says. And if not next time, then the time after that. Or the time after that. Or the time after that.

Because if Charlie Brown gives up, if Charlie Brown says no, I won't try to kick that football, not this time, then what does he have left to live for?