The Telling that Changes Everything VI.
January 8, 2012
There are two ways of looking at things.
I learned this the hard way. I had hints.
At the end of The Last Battle, C. S. Lewis
takes the children through a stable and
into the Elysian Fields.* The dwarves,
right behind them, see only the stable
and not the beautiful meadow. I look out
my window at my January garden and the
meadow beyond it. Six months ago it was
vibrant with color, and I picked cukes,
tomatoes, peppers, and later, figs, okra,
beans. The fruits of that flourishing
beauty lie safely in my freezer or stay
cool in my unheated bedroom where I
sleep under layers of quilts, my wool
serape on top. But some see only a
bleak, grey landscape, a scarecrow in
her blue robe and plastic bag head,
her two-by-four arms held wide to
frighten crows and guard the plenty
that ripened all around her. In my
mind’s eye, the garden still lives.
Next year I’ll have new fruits to gather,
savor, and lock in boxes against the
winter, cold and grey. I learned early
that I would be loved and hated. So
I learn now that my books will stir
praise and blame. It shouldn’t surprise
me, since I do what I love and in the
mode it is given to me. I see by my
visions. I follow the prompts of
my Deep Self. I’m more interested
in revealing how love works its
transformations than in being known
to be Kierkegaard’s genius.** The only
kind of genius I want to be is the one
who knows how to invent in Sartre’s
desperate circumstances. The one who
can take an unexpected kick in the gut
and place it in the context it deserves,
of short-sightedness. You see only the
stable and not the Elysian fields? It
must mean you’re short-sighted or even
blind. Procrustean*** beds can only take
you so far. But I refuse to have my arms
and legs lopped off so you can fit me
into the box of your choosing. I’m a
little more effervescent than that. I
didn’t get to this age without learning
how to elude the reductionists who
love to classify, categorize, and box
you in. Of course, you’re welcome
to your opinion, and you may spread
it around, conceivably do me or my
books harm. But I have weapons
you scarcely imagine. You write to
rules and slogans. I heed the Muse,
write the books I must write. If you
read them with an open mind, they
might change how even you see
the world. As for me, I’m on my best
path, heading in my chosen direction.
I wish you well on your path.
Let’s see who dies most satisfied.
* Elysian fields: in Greek mythology, the fields of asphodel (like daffodils) where the good dead go.
** Kierkegaard distinguished between the genius, who writes to show off his genius, and the apostle, who writes for the sake of what he values. Sartre said: “A genius is one who invents in desperate circumstances.”
*** Procrustes: a giant who forced people into a bed, whether they fitted or not, lopping off limbs as necessary.