Unreal Nature

March 27, 2015

And Hoptoads

Filed under: Uncategorized — unrealnature @ 5:49 am

… Contingency, contingency, and each day by word or deed the chisel falling true or blind upon the future …

This is from The Mind as Nature by Loren Eiseley (1962):

When I was a small boy I lived, more than most children, in two worlds. One was dark, hidden and self-examining, though in its own way not without compensations. The other world in which I somehow also managed to exist was external, boisterous, and what I suppose the average parent would call normal, or extroverted. These two worlds simultaneously existing in one growing brain had in them something of the dichotomy present in the actual universe where one finds behind the ridiculous, wonderful tentshow of woodpeckers, giraffes, and hoptoads, some kind of dark, brooding, but creative void out of which these things emerge — some anti-matter universe, some web of dark tensions running beneath and creating the superficial show of form that so delights us. If I develop this little story of a personal experience as a kind of parable, it is because I believe that in one way or another we mirror in ourselves the universe with all its dark vacuity and also its simultaneous urge to create anew, in each generation, the beauty and the terror of our mortal existence.

[ … ]

… There are subjects in which I have remained dwarfed all of my adult life because of the ill-considered blow of someone nursing pent-up aggression, or words more violent in their end effects than blows. There are other subjects for which I have more than ordinary affection because they are associated in my mind with kindly and understanding men or women — sculptors who left even upon such impliant clay as mine the delicate chiseling of refined genius, who gave unwittingly, in other words, something of their final character to most unpromising material. Sculptors reaching blindly forward into time, they struck out their creation scarce living to view the result.

Now, for many years an educator, I often feel the need to seek out a quiet park bench to survey mentally that vast and nameless river of students which has poured under my hands. In pain I have meditated: “This man is dead — a suicide. Was it I, all unknowingly, who directed, in some black hour, his hand to the gun?” “This man is a liar and a cheat. Where did my stroke go wrong?” Or there comes to memory the man who, after long endeavors, returned happily to the farm from which he had come. Did I serve him, if not in the world’s eye, well? Or the richly endowed young poet whom I sheltered from his father’s wrath — was I pampering or defending — and at the right or the wrong moment in his life? Contingency, contingency, and each day by word or deed the chisel falling true or blind upon the future of some boy or girl.

-Julie

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