Some tiny creature, mad with wrath,

Is coming nearer on the path.

--Edward Gorey

Location: Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, U.S. Outlying Islands

Writer, lawyer, cyclist, rock climber, wanderer of dark residential streets, friend.

Thursday, June 23, 2005

In Defense of Waking

Zulieka, in a characteristically thought-provoking post, writes: "Genius is not the ability to do things faster than most mortals. It is the ability to slow things down. The slower they appear, the more details are caught, the better one is equipped to be honest." Her point (or perhaps more to the point, what I take from what she's written): we go through life senseless, bound to contingency, the call and response of the status quotidian. We are at our best when we are awake, and wakefulness, properly understood, is the principal tool of the skillful artist, and very nearly as rare as great art.

She put me in a mind of Annie Dillard, and different things Dillard has said about wakefulness versus sleep, word plays and metaphors, and then the literal. I'm at work. I haven't my library, generously populated with Dillard, at my disposal. But a quick Google search did disclose this quote from one of her best and most widely known essays, "Total Eclipse:"

We teach our children one thing only, as we were taught: to wake up. We teach our children to look alive there, to join by words and activities the life of human culture on the planet’s crust. As adults we are almost all adept at waking up. We have so mastered the transition we have forgotten we ever learned it. Yet it is a transition we make a hundred times a day, as, like so many will-less dolphins, we plunge and surface, lapse and emerge. We live half our waking lives and all of our sleeping lives in some private, useless, and insensible waters we never mention or recall. Useless, I say. Valueless, I might add--until someone hauls their wealth up to the surface and into the wide-awake city, in a form that people can use.

It has been a delight, as Zulieka nears her due date, to watch her wrestle with some of the bigger questions. Perhaps just because she has the time. Or perhaps because the surely daunting prospect of parenthood leads thoughtful people into graceful spirals of introspection, considerations of what it is to be a parent, to present the world with another gift swaddled in cotton, pinkly smacking her lips and balling her impossibly fragile fingers into grasping fists of need. Only those who have been there can imagine; for someone like me, to conjecture is only to play games.

But rather than the banal "Good Luck, Z!," I inanely inserted into a parenthetical a few posts below, I'd rather offer the above as a tribute and an expression of well wishes.

Zulieka -- As do many of your readers, I am sure, I wish you all the best delivering Bb, your Little Girl. And I look forward to reading all about it. Godspeed.


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