Through the Prism

After passing through the prism, each refraction contains some pure essence of the light, but only an incomplete part. We will always experience some aspect of reality, of the Truth, but only from our perspectives as they are colored by who and where we are. Others will know a different color and none will see the whole, complete light. These are my musings from my particular refraction.


Kernels that Cannot Be Condensed

I honestly feel I never have much of a response lately to the question, "How are you doing?" Most of the time, I don't really know. It has much to do with, I'm sure, our two little boys at home (21 and 40 months old). And I've just come across a wonderful summation of that feeling:
I don't know myself as well as I used to, says a middle-aged friend raising two young children. But he does know. He just isn't thinking about it as much anymore.
It's from a book: 300 Arguments by Sarah Manguso. The book is a collection of aphorisms that hint at a story. Think of this as a short book composed entirely of what I hoped would be a long book's quotable passages, she writes in one of them. Here a few others I'm particularly fond of:
I like writing that is unsummarizable, a kernel that cannot be condensed, that must be uttered exactly as it is.


The true nobility put their inferiors at ease--by being kind to them? No, by dismantling the system for a moment.


The first beautiful songs you hear tend to stay beautiful because better than beauty, which is everywhere, is the memory of first discovering beauty.


Talking with someone who reveals nothing, I hear myself madly filling the emptiness with information about myself.


Many bird names are onomatopoetic--they name themselves. Fish, on the other hand, have to float there and take what they get.
I like the wisdom and insight those contain. Here's my review, which shares a few more.

One of the aphorisms from the middle of 300 Arguments reads:
Think of this as a short book composed entirely of what I hoped would be a long book's quotable passages.
And they are that, quotable. Reflections, insights, memories that each capture some truth about life. They are aphorisms, each a self-contained, poetic, miniature essay.
I used to write these while playing hooky on what I hoped would be my magnum opus. Assigning myself to write three hundred of them was like forcing myself to chain-smoke until I puked, but it didn't work. I didn't puke.
Yet, while they are each self-contained and complete, they are arranged in a sequence that tells a story. They are dots that can be connected to get a sense of a person behind them. While some are purely general,
Shame needs an excuse to feel ashamed. It apologizes for everything, even itself.
others convey common experiences with specific memories,
In ninth grade I was too afraid to speak to the boy I loved, so I mailed him a black paper heart every week for a year. I wasn't afraid of him; I was afraid of my feeling. It was more powerful than God. If we'd ever spoken it might have burned the whole place down.
and still others simply capture personal moments and feelings:
The most fervent kiss of my life was less than five seconds long more than ten years ago with someone else's husband. It still hasn't quite worn off.
Most are confessional on at least some level, particularly when connected with those surrounding them. Many echo, complement, and supplement previous thoughts from different perspectives. Themes emerge: desire, loss, ambition, writing, intimacy, vulnerability, suffering, marriage, parenthood, and mortality among them.

A person emerges: a passionate artist who has succeeded on at least some level as a writer, who has experienced many relationships before finding contentment in becoming a wife and mother, who has struggled with chronic illness, and who is reflecting on all of it from the perspective of a premature, voluntary end of life.

It is a book that asks if unfulfilled yearning is enough, in and of itself.
There were people I wanted so much before I had them that the entire experience of having them was grief for my old hunger.
And it is a book that hints at the hints of fulfillment a particular person has found.

And it accomplishes all of that in a spare, minimal, efficient, and original manner. It is quite a writing feat.
On the page, these might look like the stones of a ruin, strewn by time and weather, but I was here.


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