Venturing out for a run in the chilly air this past week, I was reminded that - oh yes! - the sun does indeed slant both ways. Owing to jetlag, this obvious fact had been a rather faint memory as of late. Yes, I am indignant that a mere bodily weakness has stolen some dozen similar beauties from me since our return, but who can stand against the heavy eyelids of seven hours' time difference? I am weak.
Not everyone will be able to relate to the minor shame I suffer related to sleeping in - there are a blessed many who can sleep a very long time with no qualms whatsoever. I envy you. And yet, I am glad for my own disposition on the whole . Even when northern climes eventually do yield days that are short and dark, the first half has always seemed to me to be life magnified - something akin to putting on your glasses after a good wipe.
By contrast, the midafternoon finds me short-tempered - if not irritable beyond recognition. I think it has something to do with the hours spent staring at that bright false angel, that lighted box of counterfeit glory so omnipresent in our modern lives. We try to revive our beauty-starved souls with catnaps and coffees, but these prop our sodden spirits only by mere increments. What will return us to the first glory? His mercies are new every morning, but what about the afternoon doldrums?
And how about this for a cheery thought?
There is no shortage of good days. It is good lives that are hard to come by.
-Annie Dillard, The Writing Life
What then is this lifelong fling? What transforms a series of good days (or "good times", as Karl is fond of inserting into the conversation at any given moment) into a good life? There is the evening with the good wine, the morning with the stunning sunrise, and the glorious couple of moments when you catch a whiff of baguette walking past the boulangerie...do they add up to nothing more than random occurrences? Are those brave words emblazoned on the side of the Walker Art Center unduly optimistic?
Yes. As usual, I have painted myself into a metaphysical corner, trying to grapple with impossible questions of here and there, then and now. Help me, T.S. Eliot.
Not the intense moment Isolated, with no before or after But a lifetime burning in every moment.
A lifetime burning in every moment. Slightly more on the optimistic side, that one. Which can be helpful when you're wondering what lies on the road ahead. Especially when you buy too often into the lie that only people falling between the ages of 18 and 25 or so are beleaguered by decisions regarding God, work, love, school, and the like. Culture seems to dictate that we should have these bits and pieces put together by our late twenties. (With the occasional allowance for the unhappy 45-50-year old male who wants a red sportscar, of course.) The truth is, we all face these maddening seasons of rethinking and re-evaluating. (Er - you don't? Well, I do.) Indeed, I had been in something of a tizzy over grad school recently, but after much turmoil gratefully fell upon the following passage:
I have taught you the way of wisdom; I have led you in the paths of uprightness.
When you walk, your step will not be hampered, and if you run, you will not stumble.
He has taught us, so now it is time to walk. Maybe this kind of exhortation (with a little minor help from the poets) is the only thing that will keep us sane in a life that tends to the labyrinthine. The trail may twist, turn, ascend and descend, but if we have been teachable in the way of wisdom, we will not stumble.
I think tomorrow morning calls for another run. (And maybe tea around 4 pm or so...groan.) the intense moment