“Every human soul is of infinite value, eternal and free. No human being, therefore, is so placed as not to have within his reach, in himself and others, objects adequate to infinite endeavor” (Arthur James Balfour).
I BELIEVE THAT “ENDEAVOR” IS ONE OF THE MOST BEAUTIFUL WORDS IN THE ENGLISH LANGUAGE. Living in a world that, despite its goodness, is tragically broken and where many of our desires and goals seem frustratingly out of reach, the fact that we continue to endeavor speaks volumes about the nobility of the human spirit. In the face of such discouragement, lesser creatures would give up. But we do not. We persevere. We stay the course. We endeavor!
To endeavor is to make an earnest effort to reach a goal or fulfill a purpose. It is to strive conscientiously toward an end. But does anything we do make any difference? Are there any purposes worth working for? I, for one, believe there are. I refuse to give in to the nihilism and cynicism that are so fashionable. Doesn’t the fact that we continue to struggle say something about us? Deep down, we know all is not lost. We know endeavor is worthwhile.
But let me clarify something. As a philosopher, I agree with the Book of Ecclesiastes. In the grand scheme of things, we are not going to change this world by anything we do. As individuals, when we have lived and died, the world will be pretty much the same as it was when we got here. But that doesn’t mean our endeavors are useless! It means we do good not to change the world, but to lessen the suffering of specific people in specific ways. We have the opportunity to make a difference in our own generation. And that’s worthwhile!
Even in the short term, however, we don’t always know what’s going to happen. We endeavor, we work, and we do our best, but most of the time we have no guarantee as to the outcome. Yet we endeavor anyway. “There are some things that it is better to begin than to refuse, even though the end may be dark” (J. R. R. Tolkien).
So today, I hope you will ponder the word “endeavor.” It is a rich word, suggestive of some of the highest thoughts we can think. It reminds us that there is value in trying to do our best. No matter what.
“Despite the success cult, men are most deeply moved not by the reaching of the goal but by the grandness of the effort involved in getting there — or failing to get there” (Max Lerner).