It seemed an interesting juxtaposition that The Writer’s Almanac and Front Porch Republic should today, on side-by-side tabs of my web browser, reflect on some of the big themes of life in this world.
First, Riders by Robert Frost:
The surest thing there is is we are riders,
What is this talked-of mystery of birth
But being mounted bareback on the earth?
No one by worrying can add an inch to his stature—or so claimed the son of a Palestinian carpenter a couple thousand years ago.
And if you can’t trust the son of a two-thousand year-old Palestinian carpenter, I don’t know whom you can trust.
But worrying isn’t the same thing as cultivating a slightly audible hum of anxiety, a low-level base-line angst or unrest. And that, it seems to me (notwithstanding the carpenter’s son’s silence on the issue), is about the sanest thing a man can do.
I can’t say I’m convinced intellectually that anxiety is hunky-dory while worry is bad, but anybody who has paid attention to my ramblings on this blog should recognize that I cultivate and amplify a hum of anxiety, a low-level base-line angst or unrest.
Peters then shifts metaphors to carpentry on a building that’s out-of-square, and toward his conclusion, justifies his “anxiety” via Augustine:
“You have made us for yourself,” or so I read tonight from the Chadwick translation, which is the one that happens to be at my elbow, “and our heart is restless until it rests in you.”
I justify (making a virtue of necessity?) my amplification via Flannery O’Connor, and I recall enough amplification by Peters (who, for instance, seems to have coined “Krustianity”) to think that he can turn up the amp, too:
When you can assume that your audience holds the same beliefs as you do, you can relax a little and use more normal means of talking to it; when you have to assume that it does not, then you have to make your vision apparent by shock — to the hard of hearing you shout, and for the almost-blind you draw large and startling figures.
We have become enchanted by some myths — the party of no calorie cake and the party of fat-free ice cream telling their respective versions of enlightenment liberal American exceptionalism: we can believe and possess innumerable impossible things before breakfast as our birthright because we are Americans — the freest, godliest, most selfless and just goshdurn nice people the world has ever seen. If you have read your fairytales, you should know that enchanters more often than not are witches, and that breaking their spells is a good thing even if the enchantment was pleasant while it lasted.
Enchantment is among my recurring themes, and disenchantment in the sense of disenthrallment is my frequent aim.
But I’m going to try to amp it down a bit.