Wednesday, November 30, 2005

Marlow's Ghost

On a friend's blog today, someone who's trying to deal with living in New Orleans, there is the following: "everything is simply raw, exposed, and full of uncertainty. There are moments I think that's depressing and I'd rather go somewhere else where this isn't true. But that thought is usually followed by an awareness that perhaps life is always like this -- raw, exposed, full of uncertainty -- and we just bumble along thinking differently because the world around us is put together a little more nicely" (see

It's both depressing and reassuring to know that someone else has made some of the realizations I've made in my life since Robert became ill. Reassuring because I know that I'm not necessarily the only one, and depressing because I wouldn't wish it on anyone else.

There is definitely a sense that anything can happen to you now; the usual protections of the known universe do not apply to you. Are you on the outside looking in, or on the inside looking out?

I am suddenly (and apparently randomly) reminded of part of the opening description of Marlow in Heart of Darkness, right after Marlow makes his opening rhetorical gambit, "And this also has been one of the dark places of the earth": "to him the meaning of an episode was not inside like a kernel but outside, enveloping the tale which brought it out only as a glow brings out a haze, in the likeness of one of these misty halos that sometimes are made visible by the spectral illumination of moonshine."

A good example, not of modernist attitudes toward interpretation, but of postmodern attitudes, I think. But it's applicable to life, too. I've stopped looking inward for answers and the meaning of it all--is this a message from God, did I do something wrong, is this bad thing being sent to make me stronger and cause me to learn from it? No. What is meaningful is outside, surrounding us, what we try to get back to, how we try to reconstruct and survive. That gives the glow and halo of meaning to our lives. It's not about the self, it's about how we connect and reconnect with other people, and what is built.

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