22 January 2016

More from Adam Bede

I forget sometimes how satisfying it sometimes feels to write in the afternoon. The holes I left in the A.M. get so readily filled in the P.M.  What seemed so unclear in the dark of the A.M. shines lucidly in the P.M. But the P.M. wouldn’t occur with out the work of the A.M., and so I arise early, make the coffee and sit in the semi-dark surrounded by the books and folders knowing all will soon make sense.
     Here is this passage from Adam Bede that appeals to me. “For there is no hour that has not its births of gladness and despair, no morning brightness that does not bring new sickness to desolation as well as new forces to genius and love. There are so many of us, and our lots are so different, what wonder that Nature’s mood is often in harsh contrast with the great crisis of our lives? We are a children of a great family, and must learn, as such children do, not to expect that our hurts will be made much of¾to be content with little nurture and caressing, and help each other the more.” It surprises me how prescient George Eliot seems to be here, speaking in the language of many of our contemporary ethicists and cosmopolitans. The world does not move to our rhythms, does not care about our desires, wishes or intents. Our lives are filled with contradictions that must be borne, no, that must be simply accepted, even as our powerlessness to control very much has to be acknowledged and lived. What Eliot suggests is that for the most part our hurts and complaints will fall on ears oblivious of our plaints. Nevertheless, and almost contradictorily, Eliot urges in the midst of this silence and apathy that we must be prepared to offer sympathy and support—though I prefer the concept of ‘nurture,’ the term Eliot employs. And I suppose that what she means by this is that we must address not the particular injury but respond to the inevitable susceptibility to injury, to disappointment and despair to which we are all subject. I suppose this is the message of Ecclesiastes: to everything there is a season. Everything is here always; everyone is here always and we are all not the same. No wonder everything happens! And so the question “Why me?” is absurd, because if not me then it must be someone else, but eventually it¾whatever it may be¾ comes back to me. Opposed to Thoreau’s optimism that the sun is only a morning star, Eliot suggests that the morning star sometimes might bring darkness.


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