Scene: A visionary academic, Hari Seldon, has attracted the attention and wrath of the Emperor, and is fleeing for his life with the assistance of “Chester Hummin”, a journalist. The two men take refuge in a dismal diner and Hummin urges Seldon to help him stop the slow death of the Galactic Empire.
“Hummin said, ‘Well, then, you’re part of the decay. You’re ready to accept failure.’
‘What choice have I?’
‘Can’t you try? However useless the effort may seem to you to be, have you anything better to do with your life? Have you some worthier goal? Have you a purpose that will justify you in your own eyes to some greater extent?
Seldon’s eyes blinked rapidly. ‘Millions of worlds. Billions of cultures. Quadrillions of people. Decillions of interrelationships — And you want me to reduce it to order.’
‘No. I want you to try. For the sake of those millions of worlds, billions of cultures, and quadrillions of people. Not for the Emperor. Not for Demerzel. For humanity.’
‘I will fail,’ said Seldon.
‘Then we will be no worse off. Will you try?’
And against his will and not knowing why, Seldon heard himself say, ‘I will try.’ And the course of his life was set.
p. 57-58, Prelude to Foundation. Isaac Asimov. Reading this at supper Tuesday night, I realized with a start that when I first read this twelve years ago, I was Hummin, full of idealism, energy, and optimism. Now I’m definitely across the table, right next to Seldon, in much need of a Hummin (or a Jordan Peterson) to lead me away from cynicism and apathy.