Recently, I had the honour to contribute a short-short to “Beautiful Things”, the online section of River Teeth: A Journal of Nonfiction Narrative. River Teeth is one of the most well-known creative nonfiction publications around, and in my opinion has the most inspired name. On its origin: “…there are hard, cross-grained whorls of human experience that remain inexplicably lodged in us, long after the straight-grained narrative material that housed them has washed away. Most of these whorls are not stories, exactly: more often they’re self-contained images of shock or of inordinate empathy; moments of violence, uncaught dishonesty, tomfoolery; of mystical terror; lust; joy. These are our “river teeth”-the knots of experience that once tapped into our heartwood, and now defy the passing of time.” – David James Duncan On what “Beautiful Things” look like: “Glimpses, glimmers, meditations, moments, reflections, refractions, interrupted shadows, river shimmers, darkened mirrors, keyholes, kaleidoscopes, earring hoops, slabs of cracked granite, cracks where the light gets in. Beautiful things.” – River Teeth’s website I won’t spoil “What Matters” since it’s less than …
“When we embrace wounds instead of escaping them, when we are broken open from the prison of self, we become worthy of deeper connections and different understandings. When we surrender fear so that we can know the pain of longing, we enter into a wondrous journey of discovery, transported by the eternal dance between self and other. The ultimate source of power is the courage of empathy.” – Payam Akhavan, 2014 Vancouver Human Rights Lecture
“You are our history. We are perhaps your future. I want to learn, not ignore. It is the reason I came. We must know each other. We are not primitive men. Our morality is no longer tribal, it cannot be. Such ignorance is a wrong, from which wrong will arise. So I come to learn.” – The Dispossessed, p. 75 Welcome to the final part in the series exploring one of my favourite novels: Ursula K. Le Guin’s The Dispossessed. You can read the previous entries here: Part 1 – Crossing the Wall: The Dispossessed Part 2 – Urras and Hope Betrayed Part 3 – Anarres the Promise Kept In this last piece, I’ll touch on the theme of reconciliation that runs through the novel and look at one of its key recurring image: the wall. Finally, I’ll explore how the idea of the promise, as expressed by Le Guin’s ideas and embodied by the protagonist Shevek’s actions, has implications for my own personal journey in forging a meaningful and fulfilling life.
“Shevek, a brilliant physicist, decides to take action. He will seek answers, question the unquestionable, and attempt to tear down the walls of hatred that have isolated his planets of anarchists from the rest of the civilized universe… Shevek must make the unprecedented journey to the utopian mother planet, Urras, to challenge the complex structures of life and living, and ignite the fires of change.” – Eos edition paperback cover Ursula K. Le Guin’s The Dispossessed alternates between two narratives across time and space. One revolves around the protagonist Shevek in the present as he travels to and learns about the world of Urras; the following piece looks at this story. The second narrative tells the story of Shevek’s past and his life growing up on the world of Anarres, an anarchic and egalitarian society – I’ll explore that in the next post. Finally, I’ll be examining the whole story in a third and final piece through one of the novel’s central theme: Reconciliation.
“Making happiness the focal point of your life trivializes it, because in order to regard anything as truly important, you also have to regard its loss as truly meaningful. Opening yourself up to moments of deep meaning simultaneously means that you have to open yourself up to the possibility of deep hurt and sorrow. You do that anytime, for example, you make a relationship profound, you put your emotions on the line and that has to be real, or else the relationship can’t be real. To hope that sort of risk could be obliterated by the indulgence in a simplistic form of happiness is to shrink in cowardice from the demands real human existence places on people.” -Jordan B. Peterson, CBC Idea’s “Say No to Happiness” P.S. There’s a reason for these quotes – stay tuned!