Thursday, December 2, 2010

Who is the lamb and who is the knife?

The following long-quoted passage comes from Sylvia Plath's journals. I think she was about 19 or 20 when she wrote this.

"And so it is that with my leaning toward allegories, similes and metaphors, I suddenly find a vehicle to express a few of the many disturbing thoughts which have been with me since yesterday...to describe the feeling I had toward an anonymous part of the Massachusetts coastline. Simple as this task may seem, I wanted to wait until I could do it even partial justice because it forms the core of my continually evolving philosophy of thought and action.


On a relatively unfrequented, stony beach there is a great rock which juts out over the sea. After a climb, an ascent from one jagged foothold to another, a natural shelf is reached where one person can stretch at length, and stare down into the tide rising and falling below, or beyond to the bay, where sails catch light, then shadow, then light, as they tack far out near the horizon. The sun has burned these rocks, and the great continuous ebb and flow of the tide has crumbled the boulders, battered them, worn them down to the smooth sun-scalded stones on the beach which rattle and shift underfoot as one walks over them. A serene sense of the slow inevitability of the gradual changes in the earth's crust comes over me. A consuming love, not of a god, but of the clean unbroken sense that the rocks which are nameless, the waves which are nameless, the ragged grass which is nameless, we are all defined momentarily through the consciousness of the being who observes them. With the sun burning into rock, and flesh, and the wind ruffling grass and hair, there is an awareness that the blind immense unconscious impersonal and neutral forces will endure, and that the fragile, miraculously knit organism which interprets them, endows them with meaning, will move about for a little, then falter, fail, and decompose at last into the anonymous soil, voiceless, faceless, without identity.

From this experience I emerged whole and clean, bitten to the bone by sun, washed pure by the icy sharpness of salt water, dried and bleached to the smooth tranquility that comes from dwelling among primal things.

From this experience also, a faith arises to carry back to a human world of small lusts and deceitful pettiness. A faith, naïve and childlike perhaps, born as it is from the infinite simplicity of nature. It is a feeling that no matter what the ideas or conduct of others, there is a unique rightness and beauty to life which can be shared in openness, in wind and sunlight, with a fellow human being who believes in the same basic principles.

Yet, when such implicit belief is placed in another person, it is indeed shattering to realize that a part of what to you was such a rich, intricate, whole conception of life has been tossed off carelessly, lightly — it is then that a stunned, inarticulate numbness paralyzes words, only to give way later to a deep hurt. It is hard for me to say on paper what I believe would be best be reserved for a lucid vocal discussion. But somehow I did want you to know a little of what your surprising and perhaps injudiciously confidential information did to me yesterday. A feeling that there was no right to condemn, but that still somehow there was a crumbling of faith and trust. A feeling that there was a way to rationalize, to condone, if only by relegating a fellow human from the unique to the usual." (italics mine)


Her metaphor allows her to take me with her on her journey to the coastline. I am there with her, standing atop the cliff and watching the boats travel by. I am with her when she notices the decaying rocks. We stand together in the sun, the wind whipping our hair about carelessly. We stand apart when we both realize the inevitability of our demise. She sees nothing at the end, while I see something.

I understand the beauty to be found in life and to be found when talking with a fellow person who shares the same ideals. I also comprehend the disillusionment when discovering that someone close is actually a fake version of himself (or herself), someone who is merely a shadow. It's a someone who you thought to be extraordinary, perhaps even a prime mover, but who, in reality, doesn't measure up to any standard of uniqueness.

(What I quoted from Sylvia comes from the Journals of Sylvia Plath, pages 28 and 29.)
(photos via fashiongonerogue)

1 comment:

Josh said...

Gorgeous writing.