That of which it’s made, ages just like you.
(the title page of the top volume in this entry)
[click to enlarge]
Extreme busyness, whether at school or college, kirk or market, is a symptom of deficient vitality; and a faculty for idleness implies a catholic appetite and a strong sense of identity. There is a sort of dead-alive, hackneyed people about, who are scarcely conscious of living except in the exercise of some conventional occupation. Bring these fellows into the country, or set them aboard ship, and you will see how they pine for their desk or their study. They have no curiosity; they cannot give themselves over to random provocations; they do not take pleasure in the exercise of their faculties for its own sake; and unless Necessity lays about them with a stick, they will even stand still. It is no good speaking to such folk: they cannot be idle, their nature is not generous enough; and they pass those hours in a sort of coma, which are not dedicated to furious moiling in the gold mill....
When nature is “so careless of the single life,”1 why should we coddle ourselves into the fancy that our own is of exceptional importance? Suppose Shakespeare had been knocked on the head some dark night in Sir Thomas Lucy’s preserves, the world would have wagged on better or worse, the pitcher gone to the well, the scythe to the corn, and the student to his book; and no one been any the wiser of the loss. There are not many works extant, if you look the alternative all over, which are worth the price of a pound of tobacco to a man of limited means. This is a sober reflection for the proudest of our earthly vanities....
1 See Tennyson’s In Memoriam, LV, where the poet discusses the pessimism caused by regarding the apparent indifference of nature to the happiness of the individual.
“Are God and Nature then at strife,
That Nature lends such evil dreams?
So careful of the type she seems,
So careless of the single life.”
“In the friendship I speak of, our souls mingle and blend with each other so completely that they efface the seam that joined them, and cannot find it again. If you press me to tell why I loved him, I feel that this cannot be expressed, except by answering: Because it was he, because it was I.”
When a century had passed
When a century had passed
and their tea had grown cold,
I interpret your silence thus,
That something in my face
has come between us; like a primitive mask
in torchlight, it frightens you.
Whence came the answer:
Not your face, but a sudden fear
of my own; for what you see, I think,
And they sat quietly for another century.
The minutes were the fingers of their hands.
The seconds were the bones inside them.
The miracle was that it should be so.
Then there arose the cry of a great multitude
and the sound of someone hammering.
There it is again,
the first said.
came the reply.
And they waited helplessly for the sound to end.
When it did, these words were said:
There is something I want to tell you.
What is it, pray?
Nothing. Nothing. Nothing, my friend.
April 6, 2003 — When I was a kid, I used to dig holes in the shade of the walnut trees growing by our house. My intention was always to live in them; when that didn’t work, I settled for long afternoons. My main occupation was reading old issues of Walt Disney’s Comics and Stories. One hole, I remember, had a fireplace. The chimney was formed by driving an old metal horseshoe peg into the clay soil. All I had to do was light a few leaves, twigs, or pine needles, and then watch the smoke rise up through the chimney. Paradise. And I’m still quite good with a shovel. But now I usually dig my holes on paper — that is, when I’m not digging them by the stupidity of my actions. Sometimes I succeed in combining the two. This is always cause for celebration. Several years ago, we were told by the landlord of the house we were renting that the holes my children had dug in the backyard would have to be filled in. I said, “But they’re holes. Kids are supposed to dig holes. Didn’t you dig holes when you were that age?” His answer amazed me: “I did, but my father always made me fill them in.” And I thought, What a sad thing.