Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Spend the afternoon; you can't take it with you

Self-consciousness is the curse of the city and all that sophistication implies. It is the glimpse of oneself in a storefront window, the unbidden awareness of reactions on the faces of other people- the novelist’s world, not the poet’s. I’ve lived there. I remember what the city has to offer: human companionship, major-league baseball, and a clatter of quickening stimulus like a rush from strong drugs that leaves you drained. I remember how you bide your time in the city, and think, if you stop to think, “next year … I’ll start living; next year … I’ll start my life.” Innocence is a better world.
Annie Dillard's Pulitzer Prize winning book, "Pilgrim at Tinker Creek," reminded me of a few important truisms. For one, innocence can be a better world. To be completely lost in nature, in music, in a novel, in a relationship, in calligraphy, in ... whatever it is you're into, it can be a beautiful world. She advises to do what you do.

She's also funny.

Squirrels and box turtles are immune to the poison in mushrooms, so it is not safe to eat a mushroom on the grounds that squirrels eat it.
And finally, she finds ways to love what she loves in spite of imperfections. She acknowledges the brokenness of our world and adores it anyhow.
I am a frayed and nibbled survivor in a fallen world, and I am getting along. I am aging and eaten and have done my share of eating too. I am not washed and beautiful, in control of a shining world in which everything fits, but instead am wandering awed about on a splintered wreck I’ve come to care for, whose gnawed trees breathe a delicate air, whose bloodied and scarred creatures are my dearest companions, and whose beauty beats and shines not in its imperfections but overwhelmingly in spite of them, under the wind-rent clouds, upstream and down. Simone Weil says simply, “Let us love the country of here below. It is real; it offers resistance to love.”

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