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Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Living and Reading at October’s Tempo

“Rain-wrapped tornado” was a new one on me. That’s what the weather people were talking about today, with warnings for several Michigan counties. Not ours. We had only high winds. Very high winds.

Trees that aren’t yet bare soon will be if these winds keep up long, but please note that while the foliage deserts (or is torn from) the branches, the trees are already prepared for next year with fine, fat buds.

I find that reassuring.

Yes, our mild days are over, it seems, and the wild days are here. Grey clouds scud, yellow leaves are driven through the air, and the wild turkeys seem to sense that it’s the time of year to be very wary of human beings. When I stopped to photograph this small group, they didn’t lose a moment thinking the situation over but hurried back toward the garden statue of Mary, conveniently distant from the road.

Our small, intrepid human band, the reading support group who tackled last year James Joyce’s Ulysses, decided this fall to read three plays. It’s been very worthwhile and enjoyable, but already we have arrived at our third, Waiting for Godot, by Samuel Beckett. The season has passed too quickly! Estragon and Vladimir struggled to fill time. The days of their pointless existences hung heavy on their hands. Time dragged horribly for them. How old are Didi and Gogo in the play? Isn't it usually the young who make such complaints? "There's nothing to do around here!" Whereupon the parent offers to give the child something to do, and the wise child quickly exits the stage for the freedom of nature and/or solitude.

Can you say “neglected modern classics”? Which ones have you neglected? Recently I decided it was time for me to read James Hilton’s Lost Horizon. Here’s a little bit of what the High Lama promises Conway in Shangri-la:
The years will come and go, and you will pass from fleshly enjoyments into austerer but no less satisfying realms; you may lose your keenness of muscle and appetite, but there will be gain to match your loss; you will achieve calmness and profundity, ripeness and wisdom, and the clear enchantment of memory. And, most precious of all, you will have Time—that rare and lovely gift that your Western countries have lost the more they have pursued it. Think for a moment. You will have time to read—never again will you skim pages to save minutes, or avoid some study lest it prove too engrossing.

Tempting dream! One of Sharon Astyk’s recent blog posts had put Henri Bergson into my thoughts again. (Indeed, he is never far from me, and his birthday was this month, too.) What a surprise, looking up Bergson in Samuel Enoch Stumpf’s Socrates to Sartre: A History of Philosophy (I was also looking up Heidegger, to connect some of his ideas to the Beckett play), to find a portrait that seemed almost to match one of the illustrations in my copy of Lost Horizon—not at all inappropriate, given the connecting theme of time.

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