circumscribed

I began this blog with a sensible foreboding of infrequent posting--thus the name. But it's a little melancholy to look back over the past year and see such a trickle of entries. Of course, those months haven't been empty. It reminds me of You've Got Mail...

Sometimes I wonder about my life. I lead a small life. Well, not small, but circumscribed. And sometimes I wonder, do I do it because I like it, or because I haven't been brave? So much of what I see reminds me of something I read in a book, when shouldn't it be the other way around?

I've been brave in the past year, at times much braver than I ever wanted to be. Once in a while there isn't any other choice. Once in a while you don't look back on bravery with fond memories. But you do gain the memories, and they do stir in your mind as you read, reminding you of things you saw and felt and did.

And yet, I like seeing things that remind me of something I read in a book. Being brave nurtures an appreciation for the small, circumscribed life. DE Stevenson wrote:

...some people might think our lives dull and uneventful, but it does not seem so to us. ...it is not travel and adventure that make a full life. There are adventures of the spirit and one can travel in books and interest oneself in people and affairs. One need ever be dull as long as one has friends to help, gardens to enjoy and books in the long winter evenings.

I'm reading L'Engle today and she writes so much about taking time to be. She quotes Emmanuel, Cardinal Suhard:

To be a witness does not consist in engaging in propaganda, nor even in stirring people up, but in being a living mystery. It means to live in such a way that one's life would not make sense if God did not exist.

My position at the library was filled a year ago and sometimes I regret it, asking myself what I'm doing instead. Washing dishes, drinking warm chai, browsing the Book of Common Prayer, sitting down beside my sisters for five minutes of Romola Garai in Emma, babbling to my dad about the balance between call to worship and response and how the protestant church has lost that fluid rhythm. Everything and nothing. A small life, circumscribed.

At our local grocery, you earn a free gallon of milk for every nine you purchase. My mom always uses the coupon for a gallon of chocolate milk. I used to think that was ridiculous. Why not use the coupon to save the price of a gallon of milk? But the more I think about it, there is something profoundly Orthodox about choosing the chocolate milk, and a definite pagan practicality in choosing the regular.

I wouldn't have felt that distinction without having immersed myself in GK Chesterton. Heretics, most recently.

Men are still in black for the death of God. When Christianity was heavily bombarded in the last century upon no point was it more persistently and brilliantly attacked than upon that of its alleged enmity to human joy. Shelley and Swinburne and all their armies have passed again and again over the ground, but they have not altered it. They have not set up a single new trophy or ensign for the world's merriment to rally to. They have not given a name or a new occasion of gaiety. Mr. Swinburne does not hang up his stocking on the eve of the birthday of Victor Hugo. Mr. William Archer does not sing carols descriptive of the infancy of Ibsen outside people's doors in the snow. In the round of our rational and mournful year one festival remains out of all those ancient gaieties that once covered the whole earth. Christmas remains to remind us of those ages, whether Pagan or Christian, when the many acted poetry instead of the few writing it. In all the winter in our woods there is no tree in glow but the holly.

Before that, What's Wrong with the World. Which made indulgent reflections on a small life seem a little foolish.

When people begin to talk about this domestic duty as not merely difficult but trivial and dreary, I simply give up the question. For I cannot with the utmost energy of imagination conceive what they mean. When domesticity, for instance, is called drudgery, all the difficulty arises from a double meaning in the word. If drudgery only means dreadfully hard work, I admit the woman drudges in the home…But if it means that the hard work is more heavy because it is trifling, colorless, and of small import to the soul, then as I say, I give it up; I do not know what the words mean. To be Queen Elizabeth within a definite area, deciding sales, banquets, labors, and holidays; to be Whiteley within a certain area, providing toys, boots, sheet cakes, and books; to be Aristotle within a certain area, teaching morals, manners, theology, and hygiene; I can understand how this might exhaust the mind, but I cannot imagine how it could narrow it. How can it be a large career to tell other people’s children about the Rule of Three, and a small career to tell one’s own children about the universe? How can it be broad to be the same thing to everyone, and narrow to be everything to someone? No; a woman’s function is laborious, but because it is gigantic, not because it is minute, I will pity Mrs. Jones for the hugeness of her task; I will never pity her for its smallness.

Next week I travel across the country to help a friend with four boys under four. No doubt there will be many opportunities for bravery, many things that will remind me of something I read in a book, many days that we won't leave the house--living seemingly small and circumscribed lives. I won't be engaging in propaganda, or stirring people up. For sure this blog will continue its quiet state. However, I will never be dull, and I will like it. My enjoyment of such narrowness is a living mystery to some. But that's as it should be.

1 comment:

Elisabeth DeVries said...

Thanks for posting this.