"One ought, every day at least, to hear a little song, read a good poem, see a fine picture
and, if possible, speak a few reasonable words." ~Goethe

~ also, if possible, to dwell in "a house where all's accustomed, ceremonious." ~Yeats

Friday, August 28, 2009

The Mind of God

"Do any human beings ever realize life while they live it?
-- every, every minute?"

This is the question Emily Webb asks in Thornton Wilder's play, Our Town, when she comes back from the underworld to visit Grover's Corners and sees that all the living people are too busy about the minutiae of the day even to make eye contact with the loved ones right around them.

I chose Emily's question as the header for my life-is-just-so-daily blog, The Quotidian Kit, because it so accurately captures the sense of dailyness that I want to convey in those every-other-day-or-so entries. (Please visit: www.dailykitticarriker.blogspot.com)

My friends and I fell in love with Our Town when it was produced by our highschool drama club in 1973, and my twin brother Bruce played the part of George Gibbs. One of our favorite scenes occurs at the end of Act I, when Rebecca (George's little sister, played by my friend Joni), reads out the mind-boggling address that she saw on an envelope:

Jane Crofut
The Crofut Farm
Grover's Corners
Sutton County
New Hampshire
United States of America
Continent of North America
Western Hemisphere
The Earth
The Solar System
The Universe
The Mind of God

Suddenly in awe of our own cosmic identity, we spent a lot of time recopying this long address, inserting our own names and addresses, and passing our versions around to each other in geometry class. (Sorry, Mr. Anderson!) Not that any mysteries, either universal or local, were revealed; but it sort of felt that way.

In the recent novel, Octavian Nothing (see my commentary below, August 14, 2009), I encountered a hauntingly reminiscent passage, equally cosmic but rather more sinister. The young scholar Octavian is somewhat intimidated by his tutor who has him stand against the wall in a very dark room on a dark summer night:

The silence of the house was enormous.

He stood me with my back to the wall, one inch from the paneling. He stood next to me. We faced the same way. . . .

For a long while, we stared straight forwards, side by side,
in the empty room. . . .

"Do you feel it child?" he asked. "The wall is gone. Space is gone from behind us."

I could feel nothing.

He said, "All that is there now is the eye of God." He shivered. "The pupil is black, and as large as a world." (60 - 61)

The Eye of God. I wonder if that line should come before or after The Mind of God in the address sequence? It certainly shifts the reader's focus from the known to the unknown. I'm reminded again of Emily's descent to the afterlife, when she sees simultaneously the Dead, now her companions, as well as her own funeral, taking place back on Earth:

Live people don't understand , do they?

No, dear -- not very much.

They're sort of shut up in little boxes, aren't they? I feel as though I knew them last a thousand years ago . . . (ellipses in original)

Similarly, in Madeleine L'Engle's Wrinkle in Time, the kindly Beasts look down from their planet and wonder about human beings:

How strange it is that they can't tell us what they themselves seem to know . . . And on their earth, as they call it, they never communicate with other planets. They revolve about all alone in space. . . . Aren't they lonely? (191)

So here we are, in our little boxes, unable to communicate very well; revolving about on our Mostly Harmless, Swiftly Tilting planet; transfixed by the black pupil of the Eye of God, large as the World, the Solar System, the Universe. Known, perhaps, even in our loneliness, to the Mind of God.

Mosaics at Crosby Station
Great Britain
The United Kingdom
The British Isles
The Western Hemisphere,
The Earth, The Solar System
The Universe
The Mind of God

1 comment:

  1. Here are some funny coincidences: Tonight at Border's I looked at a book about intergalactical cooperation and I bought "Octavian Nothing" from your rec. Love you,