If you have not already done so, you may wish to read the
Introduction to Gnomica.
Saturday 29 December 2012
Read gnomica 1-200 here!
No matter how far a person can go, the horizon is still way beyond you.
Zora Neale Hurston (7 Jan 1891 – 28 Jan 1960)
This afternoon, despite the wintry weather, I am in an autumnal mood – not glad, not sad, but in one of those liminal interstices of the emotions.
I guess you can read that epigraph as either hopelessly negative or hopefully positive. In the latter way, what you are saying is that there is always more out there, always new excitements, always unexplored territory. That I like. In the former sense, you tell yourself that you never attain your goal, for it is always receding, perhaps just within reach but just not quite yet. That distresses me.
I’d like to think that Hurston, an American author and anthropologist, had my second reading in mind when she penned those words.
It’s another, and to me wholesome, way of asserting that the journey is never finished. To be sure, there are stages on that trip where you think – or perhaps wish – you’ve ‘arrived’, but it ain’t so! Even now.
And for me it is a familiar sense from far back.
In fact, I remember it rather vividly from the spring of 1940 when the family escaped from Nazi-occupied Norway into neighboring Sweden, and those endless brooding forests that the steam locomotive puffed its cars through seemed to me absolutely never to end – pass one set of trees, and there was another stand flashing by the window, on and on and on. I actually do recall that I (unlike the adults, as my mother told me many years later) did kind of think about the whole thing as an adventure, and surely somewhere down the line there would be no more forest but the beautiful city of Stockholm and the safety of my grandparents’ home in unoccupied Sweden I had heard so much about.
The continuations sometimes followed the negative path, sometimes, the positive path. But the trail never ceased to lengthen and spread out in front of me.
Thus, looking back on my early years in elementary school, I quite distinctly recall telling my grandmother that I wanted to be a grown-up right away … she not telling me I was silly but that there was plenty of time for that and no need to rush things just yet. Wise! Again, I certainly did not conceptualize it at that time as a question of receding horizons far beyond my ‘goal’ no matter how ‘far’ – how many days – I endured and waited for the arrival I had in mind.
And when I was in the last year of senior high school I could not stop thinking about graduation and getting out of that wretched situation. And once I did? Repeat: will I ever graduate from college? will I ever finish graduate school? will I ever get tenure? will I ever get to retirement? And on and on and on …
It seemed, truly, that every season the farther along I got, this constantly retreating horizon just would not stay put. There was always more ground to cover, more things to achieve. And that’s still the case, but these days it’s more a matter of subdued expectation about possibilities that now may lie between here and the horizon, and I am comfortable enough with the acceptance that, like probably every creature, I will never reach the horizon.
And that’s O.K., too.