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The More Loving One

November 5, 2014

Starting in September during Walker’s first year of college, Ron sent both children and me a daily e-mail entitled “This Day in Middle Earth,” to tell us what was going on in the story that day and sometimes to fill us in on details that we could appreciate particularly in light of where the fellowship was or what kinds of battles they were fighting. Today those days ended with the shire being restored and the mallorn seed planted.

I feel that a lot of days are ending. It gets dark early now, as it does in the Reynolds Price play and the story “Araby.” Whatever my endeavor, I always seem to end up like the boy talking to Mangan’s sister as dark falls on the street, longing to go to Araby and promising to bring her something. She doesn’t care that much whether he brings her anything or not, which makes his ardency that much more ridiculous.

In the past few months I’ve become too ardent about everything, trying to find something to settle on. From the outside, I know, it appears ridiculous. Walker laughs at the way my stories get reduced to the gist, the part I have zeroed in on with pinpoint intensity, so that the bigger sense of the story is lost. Eleanor rightly points out that even though I can often put my finger on what is missing from a story, I’m not enough of a creative writer to suggest what should be there. My friends share a long conversation with me, but the breadth of it has narrowed because their paying work is so interesting and they are so essential.

I am not essential. When I walk through the college campus in the later afternoon, on my way to see that the student service I run gets off to a good start and to meet anyone who might have a question, I feel like the boy appearing at the bazaar:
“Nearly all the stalls were closed and the greater part of the hall was in darkness. I recognized a silence like that which pervades a church after a service. I walked into the centre of the bazaar timidly. A few people were gathered about the stalls which were still open. Before a curtain, over which the words Café Chantant were written in coloured lamps, two men were counting money on a salver. I listened to the fall of the coins.”

What is the purpose of lingering to overhear the conversations? My attempts at kindness at work and nurturing at home come to whatever such attempts usually come to, at best a lessening of some of the cruelties that the college-aged necessarily suffer.

Only W.H. Auden can sum up the ridiculousness of such a position.

The More Loving One

Looking up at the stars, I know quite well
That, for all they care, I can go to hell.
But on earth indifference is the least
We have to dread from man or beast.

How should we like it were stars to burn
With a passion for us we could not return?
If equal affection cannot be,
Let the more loving one be me.

Admirer as I think I am
Of stars that do not give a damn,
I cannot, now I see them, say
I missed one terribly all day.

Were all stars to disappear or die,
I should learn to look at an empty sky
And feel its total dark sublime
Though this might take me a little time.

If you can’t be a star, learn to put their importance in perspective, I guess. Let yourself be ridiculous in your regard for something that has no discernible affect on anyone’s life. This is what I get out of this poem, but it hardly seems enough to be going on with.

A young person gaily trooping off to seek his fortune asks the mother he leaves behind “why don’t you write a book or get a dog?” Because all the interesting stuff has happened already; all she has to work with are memories and the habits of kindness. Unless there’s some other possibility for what can happen after the happy ending.

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15 Comments leave one →
  1. November 5, 2014 11:47 am

    You wrote:

    In the past few months I’ve become too ardent about everything, trying to find something to settle on. From the outside, I know, it appears ridiculous.

    I don’t get ridiculous from your struggle. I do sense frustration, maybe feeling purposeless. It’s not going to be any comfort when I say yes, I walked this path too. But on the off chance you will find comfort in a sisterhood of sorts, then yes. I did walk this path far too early due to some life circumstances. And I do remember that sense of “all the interesting stuff has already happened.”

    Does it help or annoy you if I say no, you can find interesting stuff? You can find things that matter, that you care about. I think the crux is that you believe the happy ending has happened already, while I would tell you (annoyingly to be sure) that no, the curtain has only rung down on one act. You’ve got more to follow, and the fun if there is any to be had is in finding the next act.

    OK I’ll stop now.

    • November 7, 2014 3:04 pm

      I think I’m ready to see a next act, but feel like the playwright has missed her deadline and no one knows their lines yet.

  2. November 6, 2014 9:26 am

    What a beautiful poem! As for what happens after happy endings, anything you want! Endings open up room for beginnings which means all sorts of possibilities and excitement.

    • November 7, 2014 3:05 pm

      Perhaps I’m stuck like Will Barrett from The Last Gentleman, paralyzed with possibility.

  3. November 7, 2014 2:43 pm

    Oh no! This — “A young person gaily trooping off to seek his fortune asks the mother he leaves behind ‘why don’t you write a book or get a dog?'” — makes me laugh. Kids can be kind of cruel, although in a pretty hilarious way. Write a book if you’d like to. Don’t get a dog. EDJ is right — there is definitely more to come. Here — I’ll give you an assignment. Go to Columbus and take a look at the art museum. Or drive to Cleveland and tell me what it’s like. Or Dayton, even. What’s there?

    • November 7, 2014 3:08 pm

      I’ve been to the art museum in Columbus more times than I can count. I’ve been to Dayton and Cleveland for chess, restaurants, and once, the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. We’ve been to the aquarium in Cincinnati.
      Pretty much the only stuff left in Ohio that I haven’t seen is stuff that doesn’t interest me, like the Wright Patterson air force museum, or the creationist one.

  4. trapunto permalink
    November 8, 2014 5:23 pm

    A new friendship found in a completely unexpected place.

    • November 8, 2014 9:08 pm

      That would be nice. As I said to Freshhell after seeing the movie St. Vincent, I’m crusty and hate to cook and stuff but somehow I haven’t managed to gather a substitute family around like Bill Murray does.

  5. November 8, 2014 6:19 pm

    Yikes Girlfriend!!! This strikes me as a sad post. May I say, that “a lessening of some of the cruelties” CAN be a big deal. Wishing you a moving path toward positive possibilities…

    • November 8, 2014 9:15 pm

      Thanks, Care. I think I’m just now realizing the extent to which my local friends are wrapped up in their paying work. That has not been my choice. But now I’m at the opposite extreme from the guy who sings “Cat’s in the Cradle.” Some choices you don’t get two shots at.

      • November 10, 2014 6:23 am

        “Some choices you don’t get two shots at.” Boy, you just said a mouthful there. And the if onlys can kill you.

  6. December 3, 2014 12:47 pm

    It’s because of what comes beforehand – the extreme intensity of the need and the love. That’s excessive, in it’s way, though we grow so used to it, and so then what comes next feels excessive too, because the pendulum has swung. I’m calling this era ‘marking time’. Something will come next – I think I had better rest up for it. Love the Auden.

    • December 3, 2014 12:52 pm

      We grow used to intensity, that’s true. I am a person who creates intensity if enough of it doesn’t find me, so that may be a lot of what I’m missing. I hate resting up.

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