“Life can survive in the constant shadow of illness, and even rise to moments of rampant joy, but the shadow remains, and one has to make space for it.” —Diane Ackerman from One Hundred Names for Love
A place isn’t a place until you tell stories about it, says Wallace Stegner in “The Sense of Place.” In fact, Stegner says, “[N]o place is a place until it has had a poet.” He has Yeats in mind, who claimed about Ireland that “there is no river or mountain that is not associated in the memory with some event or legend.” Stegner goes on to worry about the American “mythless man” who “lives a life of his own, sunk in a subjective mania of his own devising, which he believes to be the newly discovered truth.”
It has always seemed strange to me . . . the things we admire in men, kindness and generosity, openness, honesty, understanding and feeling, are the concomitants of failure in our system. And those traits we detest, sharpness, greed, acquisitiveness, meanness, egoism and self-interest, are the traits of success. And while men admire the quality of the first, they love the produce of the second. – John Steinbeck
Can you do me this favor right now and imagine in your mind’s eye an altar. OK. Now put the following title “Progress” on that handsome altar. (No doubt you are chuckling right now, but work with me.) OK, we probably would agree that such a thing is not just connected with a strict religious connotation, right? Altars are used for sacrifice, and that is not always bad. Parents sacrifice time for their children. Couple’s sacrifice their earlier freedoms for—hopefully—the bliss of togetherness. Respectable citizens sacrifice their money for good charity. Forward thinking students sacrifice some frivolities for future degrees, etc., etc. We generally sacrifice something for a reason, and that’s good.
It’s always a long day at work, but today was especially long: a student meeting sandwiched in between two meetings with advancement at the college, and three lectures to prep, and the copier breaking down, and an article to publish. I customarily repair to a pub down the street a few days a week to wrap up my workday, right about when the walls of my small office start to close in on me. I try to go early and leave early, when I can. But today I didn’t make it here till almost seven o’clock. I still got a seat.