Weekly Ruminations

Volume Two

In Oreanda they sat on a bench not far from the church, looked down on the sea, and were silent. Yalta was barely visible through the morning mist, white clouds stood motionless on the mountain-tops. The leaves of the trees did not stir, cicadas called, and the monotonous, dull noise of the sea, coming from below, spoke of the peace, of the eternal sleep that awaits us. So it had sounded below when neither Yalta nor Oreanda were there, so it sounded now and would go on sounding with the same dull indifference to the life and death of each of us, there perhaps lies hidden the pledge of our eternal salvation, the unceasing movement of life on earth, of unceasing perfection. Sitting beside the young woman, who looked so beautiful in the dawn, appeased and enchanted by the view of the magical décor—sea, mountains, clouds, the open sky—Gurov reflected that, essentially, if you thought of it, everything was beautiful in this world, everything except for what we ourselves think and do when we forget the higher goals of being and our human dignity.

The Lady with the Little Dog by Anton Chekhov

“Everything was beautiful in this world …” Well, perhaps during Chekhov’s lifetime (1860-1904) this might have been true. I find his conviction difficult to swallow, now that our Mother Earth has been ruined by industrialization and poached of all her vitality and goodness. Nevertheless, what he says is true that if we remain true to our more noble impulses as good stewards, as empathetic and mindful creatures that both require and flourish in an environment more or less free from the filth and contamination into which we recklessly and with unforgivable abandon infect it, then and only then will the world be truly beautiful. But he states his case as if waving off our present troubles as a trifle, as if only a slight adjustment to our sensibilities will set the whole thing straight.

This human dignity about which he speaks seems to me out of reach … and I feel we cannot grow wings fast enough to avoid catastrophe.

But this is a love story! And an eloquent one at that. So we mustn’t be too distracted by the ills of the world to appreciate the artistry with which he paints true love between a man and a woman, in all its turbulence, exaltation, and danger.

*****

PRICKLY PUFFER FISH

Don’t touch the prickly puffer fish!
Though to heal is what you wish!
She bursts with pride; bursts with pain,
Let not the gall prick your vein!

Swim little puffer fish! Your poisoned spears
will deflate by turns into salty tears.

 

*****

Word of the Week

heresiarch: (n.) : an originator or chief advocate of a heresy.

I recently read the word heresiarch in an odd piece of fiction by Borges called Tlön, Uqbar, Orbis Tertius:

Then Bioy Casares recalled that one of the heresiarchs of Uqbar had declared that mirrors and copulation are abominable, because they increase the number or men.

Tlön, Uqbar, Orbis Tertius by Jorge Luis Borges

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