- Flannery O’Connor, “The Teaching of Literature,” in Mysteries and Manners.
- Stephen Scobie, on the Naropa Institute’s 1994 tribute to Allen Ginsberg (via fuckyeahbeatniks)
One step takes me home
Two steps back on my own
Three skips to each stone
Four steps back and I’m gone
So his mutual commitment with Takver, their relationship, had remained thoroughly alive during their four years’ separation. They had both suffered from it, and suffered a good deal, but it had not occurred to either of them to escape the suffering by denying the commitment.
For after all, he thought now, lying in the warmth of Takver’s sleep, it was joy they were both after—the completeness of being. If you evade suffering you also evade the chance of joy. Pleasure you may get, or pleasures, but you will not be fulfilled. You will not know what it is to come home.
Takver sighed softly in her sleep, as if agreeing with him, and turned over, pursuing some quiet dream.
Fulfillment, Shevek thought, is a function of time. The search for pleasure is circular, repetitive, atemporal. The variety seeking of the spectator, the thrill hunter, the sexually promiscuous, always ends in the same place. It has an end. It comes to the end and has to start over. It is not a journey and return, but a closed cycle, a locked room, a cell.
Outside the locked room is the landscape of time, in which the spirit may, with luck and courage, construct the fragile, makeshift, improbable roads and cities of fidelity: a landscape inhabitable by human beings.
It is not until an act occurs within the landscape of the past and the future that it is a human act. Loyalty, which asserts the continuity of past and future, binding time into a whole, is the root of human strength; there is no good to be done without it.
So, looking back on the last four years, Shevek saw them not as wasted, but as part of the edifice that he and Takver were building with their lives. The thing about working with time, instead of against it, he thought, is that it is not wasted. Even pain counts."
- Ursula K. Le Guin, The Dispossessed
Thank you to the poetry editor Doug Paul Case!
(Drawing by Helen Cann.)