Wednesday, November 30, 2011

English Interlude

Yesterday's reading-draw brought me to some more D.H. Lawrence, specifically his essay "Why the Novel Matters." The gist is this:

"To be alive, to be man alive, to be whole man alive: that is the point. And at its best, the novel, and the novel supremely, can help you. It can help you not to be a dead man in life."

Lawrence believed, maybe grandiosely, that novels give us a chance to "develop an instinct for life."

But in all this he stressed the fluctuations of the self and of the best characters:

"We should ask for no absolutes, or absolute. Once and for all and for ever, let us have done with the ugly imperialism of any absolute. There is no absolute good, there is nothing absolutely right. All things flow and change, and even change is not absolute. The whole is a strange assembly of apparently incongruous parts, slipping past one another.

Me, man alive, I am a very curious assembly of incongruous parts. My yea! of today is oddly different from my yea! of yesterday. My tears of to-morrow will have nothing to do with my tears of a year ago. If the one I love remains unchanged and unchanging, I shall cease to love her. It is only because she changes and startles me into change and defies my inertia, and is herself staggered in her inertia by my changing that I can continue to love her. If she stayed put, I might as well love the pepper pot."

Lawrence painting of a man kissing his non-pepper-pot

"In all this change, I maintain a certain integrity. But woe betide me if I try to put my finger on it. If I say of myself, I am this, I am that!--then, if I stick to it, I turn into a stupid fixed thing like a lamp-post. I shall never know wherein lies my integrity, my individuality, my me. I can never know it. It is useless to talk about my ego. That only means that I have made up an idea of myself, that I am trying to cut myself out to pattern. Which is no good."

I support that Lawrence points out the dangers of rigidity, but I think there are equal dangers in believing oneself to be totally fluid. We sense ourselves to be consistent, and that means something. I also like his idea that we construct public personalities that then become burdens. This contributes to my aversion to Facebook, since I know I would too-carefully craft myself.

Meanwhile, I read the quoted passage to Megan, always-changing, and she said, "Isn't Robert Downey Jr.'s girlfriend in Iron Man named Pepper Pots?" Yes, indeed.

Additionally, the line "a stupid fixed thing like a lamp-post" reminded me of two lyrics: "She sits alone by lamp-post," and "Hello, lamp-post, whatchya knowin', I've come to watch your flowers growin'."

Clearly, I am a very curious assembly of incongruous parts. I constantly try to organize those parts, and I constantly fail--in mostly pleasant ways.

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