It’s said in Cormac McCarthy’s All the Pretty Horses that a pretty horse, like the bay Blevins rides, is ‘always more trouble than it’s worth.’ Well I think that statement is what really turns the gears of that story. There are many different opinions about that statement. The effects of beauty in a fallen, misguided world where there is still grace. The things crystallized with an arthritic dog and a lamenting brother at the end of The Crossing: grief, regret, sympathy, and grace.
I’ve been around some very bright, talented people during my time in the academy, and I noticed that these people are like very strong swimmers: the direction of their effort- the pure purpose- really is more important than their ability. I think a simple person doing a doggy paddle toward shore is better than an Olympic swimmer with great technique and strength going in the wrong direction- but then again that person might find Atlantis and return.
I watched A Man Called Ove and I really enjoyed it- but I think what’s stuck with me the most is the neighbourhood. There is a parking facility that looks like a bunch of storage units, and everyone walks from there to their homes (and Ove relentlessly and emphatically regulates this part- yelling at anyone who drives down the walking paths).
It’s not the generous welfare state or the homogeneous society that makes Scandinavia by many measurements a better place to live than North America- it’s these neighbourhoods! Well on the aesthetic level (often connected to more important levels) the houses look so much better. I think many homes in North America look like storage units because the garage is the focal point of the building front and center. The areas out front of the houses are safer for children and pets to play because cars aren’t whizzing around. People have to walk from the communal garages and a walk is probably the best thing for your health, and then they’re walking in their community seeing their neighbours. I think the communal mailboxes in Canada have less of the same effect, though.
It’s a deeply moving story, following a young man through the border country of the southwest. You see that wildness is something that you often don’t fully appreciate until you try to trap it, and then when you’re close to it you want more than anything for that good thing to run free again but it seems that ‘civilized’ society won’t allow you to do that. I think it’s one of the saddest, wisest stories.
I read that the The European court has ruled against the Russian ‘gay propaganda’ law- saying, “given the vagueness of the terminology used and the potentially unlimited scope of their application, these provisions are open to abuse in individual cases.” https://www.theatlantic.com/news/archive/2017/06/european-court-blasts-russias-gay-propaganda-law-as-discriminatory/530925/
I think that’s a good standard for laws and I’m inclined to totally agree with the ruling because the law is only capable of policing certain things. If the law isn’t incisive enough it becomes absurd and oppressive. The court would do well, though, to look at all European and Canadian laws through that same lens (Americans legally have the most expansive freedom of expression).
I can think of a few canadian laws and I gather Europeans have similarly stifling laws that certainly fit that discription of vagueness and potential abusiveness. The Russian law probably targets some speech and expression that is really harmful and misguided but it probably does a whole lot of bullying too. There isn’t a ‘group’ of people on earth that isn’t party to reprehensible speech or insightful speech. That’s the thing: although I would certainly like the government to ban a bunch of things I don’t like, I know it would be bad in the end because the government does a poor job of policing speech or personal ‘propoganda,’ usually just bullying political opponents in the end. The totality of life is too dynamic to police with legislation. The upshot is that the law can’t change hearts. The government can’t coerce people to be virtuous or tolerant- people need to discover and nurture virtue and tolerance on their own, and communities can help. So while Russia has a long way to go to be a free and tolerant country, we shouldn’t be smug and complacent in Canada: Canadians have our own vague laws and need to find virtue on our own.
A wise man introduced me to Edna St Vincent Millay’s wonderful poem. . The opening line and refrain is the best comma splice I’ve read: we were very tired, we were very merry. With the pressure and mystery of poetry I can’t say for sure if it’s tired and merry or tired but merry or something else- I can say, though, the fusion of tiredness and merriment is very moving for me. That’s a worthy goal- to be tired and merry and, like the narrator does in the final lines of the poem, keep only what I need to get back home and give away everything else. I’ll keep working on that goal