When Life Improves On Art

     There was once a British writer named John Brunner who was given to writing scathing novels about a fictional United States mired in one or another sort of crisis or calamity. His writing was excellent even if his vision was perverse. One of his novels, Stand On Zanzibar, won the Hugo Award at a time when that was a genuine badge of merit. Several of his others:

     …won various degrees of acclaim.

     Brunner was an open socialist. In at least one novel (The Long Result) he seemed to endorse totalitarianism. His others were hardly kinder to freedom or capitalism. Yet his imagination was prodigious and his fictions were compelling. The one I have in mind just now is The Shockwave Rider. In that tale, he posits the takeover of the U.S. federal government by organized crime, which might strike my Gentle Readers as prescient. His protagonist, a high genius of software, contrives the downfall of that government by sheer brilliance at his vocation.

     But that’s not why I’ve thought of it today. It’s a secondary motif: a non-profit service, privately organized, called Hearing Aid, which is maintained by an isolated, quasi-agrarian community that calls itself Precipice:

     Precipice is also the home of “Hearing Aid”, an anonymous telephone confession service accessible to anyone in the country. Hearing Aid is also known as the “Ten Nines”, after the phone number used to call it: 999-999-9999. People call the service, a human operator answers, and they simply talk while the operator listens. Some rant, others seek sympathy, still others commit suicide while on the phone. Hearing Aid’s promise is that nobody else, not even the government, will hear the call. The only response Hearing Aid gives to a caller is “Only I heard that, I hope it helped.”

     That’s right: all Hearing Aid guarantees is privacy and a listener. The subtext of this imagined service and its posited popularity is hardly obscure. In Brunner’s fiction, millions of people feel that no one cares about them or is listening to them, and are willing to talk, sometimes for hours, to a listener who does not respond simply to feel less lonely. The operators are supported by donations alone.

     Fanciful? Perhaps, though there is a wave of loneliness and anomie sweeping real-world American youth. However, I doubt that many of them would be at all satisfied by a “listen-only” service. The great majority of them want to feel that they matter to someone. It’s a lack to which many modern developments have contributed.

     Which brings us to The Hope Line:

     TheHopeLine was founded over 30 years ago by acclaimed youth speaker and radio host, Dawson McAllister.
     What started out as a way to support listeners of the Dawson McAllister Live radio show has now become one of the world’s premiere resources for students and young adults in crisis. In 2020 alone TheHopeLine received 3.3 million visits while completing 9,902 live chats and 1,564 suicide interventions.
     We are a non-profit organization that provides free resources like live chat with Hope Coaches, email mentors, blog posts, podcasts, and eBooks because of donors who believe in our mission. We would love for you to join our team!

     In its FAQ section we find this:

     What’s The Catch?
     It makes perfect sense that you would ask a question like this. Nothing’s really free right?! Well, believe it or not, TheHopeLine is. Our team is made up of people you will never meet, but who care deeply about you. Here’s something else that may just blow your mind, we pray for you…A LOT! We don’t believe it’s an accident you are here. You matter to us and more importantly, you matter to God. Whatever you’re going through, you don’t have to go through it alone. Let’s get your Hope Journey started!

     I had a brief conversation with one of the counselors there, a young woman named Bailey, who tells me that the principal malady callers have cited to her is a lack of love. That makes perfect sense to me. Isolation and the sense of being unloved go together perfectly. Those of us who’ve never suffered any such feeling are likely to find it difficult to comprehend. Yet it’s real, and more prevalent today than you can imagine.

     How many organizations would you say are genuinely and solely doing good works – even God’s work? For my money, this is one. Hope Line counselors are literally engaged in one of the great works of mercy: comforting the afflicted. If you feel like supporting a truly worthy charity, I can recommend The Hope Line without reservation.

1 comment

    • SteveF on March 8, 2023 at 3:07 PM

    a lack of love

    Two driving questions to ask oneself:

    What do you want?
    What are you willing to do to get it?

    I often find myself in the slightly awkward position of giving advice to teens and young adults. (“Slightly awkward” because I’m an engineer, not a people person. And also because I joke about everything and sometimes find that someone’s taken hilariously bad advice seriously.) (There’s also the factor of “Me? You’re coming to me for advice? How pathetic is your life if I’m the closest thing to an adult you can find?”) Many of their concerns involve dating in the short term and forming a stable family in the long term.

    Something that I’ve seen myself matches what I’ve heard others talking about: Many young American women think that they deserve to have a man love them and take care of them, and they don’t need to do anything in return except try to look pretty. That’ll do for getting short-term attention but not for keeping a boyfriend or securing a long-term relationship.

    “What are you willing to do to get it?” turns out to be “Not a whole lot, really.” They’re full of demands, standards, and expectations but for the most part aren’t willing to compromise on their plans or desires. More importantly, other than teh aforementioned attention to makeup and hair, they’re not willing to change anything to make themselves more attractive to a man that they want to be with.

    Invest in companies that make boxed wine and cat food. I foresee an increasing demand.

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