5 Ways To Ensure It's A Wonderful Life In An Uncertain World
Every year, I watch It's A Wonderful Life. The film has become a staple of Christmas television programming the world over, burrowing its way into the public consciousness as a festive feel-good classic.
James Stewart stars as George Bailey, a man who has given up on his dreams in order to help others. A financial crisis on Christmas Eve has George feeling hopeless and like he has nowhere to turn. With his prayers seemingly unanswered, George contemplates suicide. However his guardian angel, Clarence Odbody, intervenes to show George all the lives he has touched, and how diminished and different life in his community of Bedford Falls would be, had George never been born.
As soon as George's family and friends learn about the financial crisis, they all pitch in and come up with the money. Finding the cash was the easy part. George was only able to overcome his despair and come to the realisation that it is indeed a wonderful life after he'd gone on an internal journey to rediscover hope.
This Christmas, there are any number of reasons to despair. Here in the UK, we're less than 100 days away from a car-crash, no-deal Brexit that will see us short of food and medicines, our ports jammed, with Kent turned into a giant lorry park and the army on standby.
If you’re American, you might be despairing at the state of a presidency that increasingly resembles a cross between the last days of Richard Nixon and The Madness of King George. Last week saw the departure of the last restraining hand on the increasingly unhinged Donald Trump when Defense Secretary, James Mattis, resigned in disgust at Trump’s impulse decision to pull out of Syria and gift Vladimir Putin, Recep Erdoğan, Bashar al-Assad and the regime in Tehran an unwarranted Christmas present.
There are no shortage of reasons to despair. But the consequences of despair are discouragement and loss of hope: the inability to conceive that things can be different. Despair makes it difficult, nigh on impossible sometimes, to envisage a different reality.
One antidote to the loss of faith and impoverishment of imagination many of us have felt since that annus horribilis, 2016, is escape. Escape removes us from our current reality, encouraging us to contemplate a different perspective.
Escape is one of my own coping mechanisms. Here are my five favourite everyday ways to escape:
Reading: Typically I read 2-3 books a week, a combination of fiction for pure escapism and non fiction.
Music: This year, I've been working my way through arts broadcaster, Clemency Burton-Hill's Year of Wonder, a classical music field guide and I'm looking forward to listening to Barack Obama's favourite songs of 2018.
Film: From Mamma Mia, Here We Go Again to A Star Is Born and Roma.
Yoga and meditation: the online yoga studio Glo provides me with a quiet space in a world of noise and distraction.
Exploring Sussex towns and villages: From Brighton's Kemp Town to the village of Alfriston and the ancient market town of Arundel.
As we head into 2019, I'd like to encourage you to make escape part of your everyday as a means of fueling hope. As the Brazilian theologian and psychoanalyst Rubem Alves says: hope is the insight that imagination is more real and reality less real than it looks.
So yes, there is far too much darkness and sometimes it can feel overwhelming. But there are also countless reasons to be hopeful. That's why this Christmas, I watched the old film once again and reminded myself that it’s a wonderful life – and yes, despite the tumult surrounding us, it’s still a wonderful world.
Question: What are your favourite ways to escape and restore hope? I love reading your feedback so please do take a moment to tell me in the comments box below.
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