Monday, December 5, 2011

The Elegance of the Hedgehog...and remotely related thoughts

This morning I finished reading The Elegance Of The Hedgehog, by Muriel Barbery.  It does not, as you might think, have anything to do with hedgehogs, except for the single paragraph from which the title was born, but it is, in my opinion, a brilliant creation.  It's the sort of book you absorb rather than read, an interesting mix of novel and philosophical work.

I picked it up this morning after Aaron left for work at 5:30, thinking that I would read a few chapters before I started the day.  I was a little over halfway through it.  I love those early morning hours.  They give you the chance to prepare your mind for the day.  Anyway, before I knew what had happened I was only pages away from the end and I knew it was hopeless to attempt anything else until I was done.

The final impression it left on my mind was one of beauty and triumph, contained within a shell of lovely, thoughtful prose.

“I have finally concluded, maybe that's what life is about: there's a lot of despair, but also the odd moment of beauty, where time is no longer the same. It's as if those strains of music created a sort of interlude in time, something suspended, an elsewhere that had come to us, an always within never. Yes, that's it, an always within never.” 

We live for moments of beauty, however brief.  The trick is learning to see.  This may seem overly simplified, but I don't think it is.  So many people stumble around blindly, thinking they are doing important things (like Rabbit in Winnie the Pooh, incidentally) but missing the beauty of life along the way.

“...This is the first time I have met someone who seeks out people and who sees beyond...We never look beyond our assumptions and, what's worse, we have given up trying to meet others; we just meet ourselves. We don't recognize each other because other people have become our permanent mirrors. If we actually realized this, if we were to become aware of the fact that we are alone in the wilderness, we would go crazy...As for me, I implore fate to give me the chance to see beyond myself and truly meet someone.” 

C.S. Lewis said that he began his journey to Christianity from Atheism when he read George MacDonald's book Phantastes.  I read Phantastes myself when I was in my teens.  It's a lovely fantasy novel about a young man who finds his way into fairyland.  There are dryads, both beautiful and frightening, fairies, living statues...but no mention anywhere of God, of Christ, of Faith.  Only a piercing beauty.  Reading that book makes me feel the same way I do standing in an open field in early spring, with no one for miles and mud between my toes, a cool breeze ruffling my hair.  For C.S. Lewis, he said that what caught him in Phantastes was goodness.

Goodness, beauty...for me they are inseparable, intertwined, essential, and for all of us, no matter what creed we follow, they are things we can give to each other.

...I think I'm done now.  The novel has been neglected today, but I still have most of the afternoon, and this blog post has been brewing in my brain for some time now in various forms.  Cheers!

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