Friday, March 24, 2006

Notes on Transcendance

My wife is, at this moment, in Malawi faithfully doing good deeds. The three of us who remain behind consider ourselves honored to be a part of it -- or rather, we do when we make the effort to be mindful of our circumstances. We are terrifically proud of her. But we are also not a little lonely. The two urchins get regular doses of their grandparents (my gratitude to all four of you -- thank you very much). As for me, I get regular calls from Blue Sky, Bright Son who is steadily working his way through Don DeLillo's Underworld.

It's probably been six or seven years since I last read that book, but when my friend calls it never takes long for my memory to warm up into a welcome glow that is able to resuscitate so many of my favourite passages. He and I consider aspects of the overall narrative, suss out connections and dismiss our personal agendas, and for a long stretch of time after I've hung up the phone, my existence is comforted by the presence of An Other.

Today, while perusing Terry Teachout's blog, I stumbled across this quote from C.S. Lewis's An Experiment in Criticism:

Literary experience heals the wound, without undermining the privilege, of individuality. There are mass emotions which heal the wound; but they destroy the privilege. In them our separate selves are pooled and we sink back into sub-individuality. But in reading great literature I become a thousand men and yet remain myself. Like a night sky in the Greek poem, I see with a myriad eyes, but it is still I who see. Here, as in worship, in love, in moral action, and in knowing, I transcend myself; and am never more myself than when I do.

My God, that's exactly right! Thank you Terry Teachout, and Clive Staples. And thank you Bright Son for the transcendance.


Andrew said...

I've never been able to read DeLillo. I tried to read White Noise once and just couldn't hack it. :)


Whisky Prajer said...

AC - (or should I say APW?) I'm sorry White Noise didn't make the cut for you. It is quite bleak, though. I would say Underworld is as uncompromising in its (or DeLillo's) vision, but is also quite overtly life-affirming. Mind you, that's 800 pages of "uncompromising" - not for the faint of heart. If you find a remaindered copy of Pafko At The Wall - the novella that kick-starts Underworld into high gear - I'd strongly encourage you to "Take and read."

Andrew said...

Thanks for the recommendations. I'm so far behind on my reading that it'll probably be summertime before I can even consider it, but your recommendations are duly noted.

AC aka APW