When I read in a book by Ross King (author of Defiant Spirits, also well worth reading) that Leonardo DaVinci was past his life expenctancy at the time he took on the big project, I wanted to go to a retirement home and spread the word- and that’s what I heartily recommend you do: go to your friendly, neighbourhood elderly person and tell him or her that DaVinci showed great promise but hadn’t really finished anything until he was an old man, so it’s not too late to make something beautiful.
The hazy silhouettes framed by the glow of personal devices coupled with the murmering noises simulated the feeling of uneasy sleep, and then came a cracking sound and a white overhead light blinding the crowd for a moment. The amateur comedian strode onto the stage with his whole body seeming to rise higher with each step, until he stopped at the edge. Like high tide everyone in the audience swelled and then receded calmy. Eventually laughs sputtered out among the crowd, thinking the comedian’s sustained warm, welcoming smile was a put on meant to impel laughter. Still, the comedian kept smiling without irony or awkwardness. Sometimes there would be more laughter after another pregnant pause until everyone was either in elation surrendering their worldly cares and ambitions or frustrated to the point of snapping. In about ten minutes everyone headed for the doors some people going to the donation box to give whatever they had while others went to the box office to demand their money back.
I count The Way through the Woods by Kipling as one of the best, never losing its power:
THEY shut the road through the woods
Seventy years ago.
Weather and rain have undone it again,
And now you would never know
There was once a path through the woods 5
Before they planted the trees:
It is underneath the coppice and heath,
And the thin anemones.
Only the keeper sees
That, where the ring-dove broods 10
And the badgers roll at ease,
There was once a road through the woods.
Yet, if you enter the woods
Of a summer evening late,
When the night-air cools on the trout-ring’d pools 15
Where the otter whistles his mate
(They fear not men in the woods
Because they see so few),
You will hear the beat of a horse’s feet
And the swish of a skirt in the dew, 20
Steadily cantering through
The misty solitudes,
As though they perfectly knew
The old lost road through the woods …
But there is no road through the woods. 25
I wrote a poem early on in University that is seemingly opposite to it and I flip between embarassment totally regretting it and thinking it a shoddy but fitting compliment to Kipling’s great poem. You may find yourself stridently confident like Saul on the road to Damascus until you are dumbstruck in your tracks, and through irresistible grace and intercession you may stay on that physical road while turning entirely along the Way through the spiritual woods. There is no road through the woods, but, and this is a miracle, there is the WAY. That’s powerful consolation when you feel lost- that everyone, though tripping themselves up trying to take their own easy way or getting tripped by others sometimes, is drawn home to canter happily on The Way through the Woods.
You’d think with the bucolic setting on the bluffs of the English Channel that Broadchurch was going to provide the classic British detective story that stamps out superstition with excellent reason and ultimately proves the innocence of everyone by deducing the identity of the criminal, delivering the satisfaction of order restored. What I’ve found so far is something different- a very sober meditation on the toxic effects of suspicion. So far, suspicion in Broadchurch has cast out the innocent with the guilty and then turned a mirror on the human failings of all the characters in town. I’m not sure how it’ll end, though- more like the worldly physical order expounded by Sherlock, or the majestic reason of divine justice and moral order in Father Brown, or something else?
P.S. The show also has shades of The Moonstone as it shows us that subjectivity and objectivity both have merits, but it’s impossible to hold both views at once