Monday, January 01, 2007


Is this all fiddling while Rome burns? It's a tired old image, a tired old question. Yes, of course it is. Here I am in my quietist seclusion on top of a hill in Brittany - a bit windy, we often say, but it'll be handy when global warming really kicks in - writing pretty and sensitive prose, snipping pleasant quotes and pasting on nice pictures, to who knows what end, ruminating on the spiritual but unwilling to commit myself to any active body of religion ( "I would prefer not to..."), of course this is effete, pointless nonsense while the world crumbles in fire, violence, fear and pain. Nero, it might be said, was in a position of rather more practical influence than I am, but he also lacked the goodwill.

Cutivate your garden, said Voltaire, somewhat disingenuously I gather, (and also my mother, who put it more literally into practice; my horticultural contribution here is mostly cutting the grass, which I do with a more or less good grace...) On the other hand, for evil to triumph... etc. When does cultivating one's garden become good people doing nothing?

I don't do politics here. That doesn't mean I haven't any political views, or that I don't feel strongly about world events, or try to educate myself about them, or even sometimes try to do something useful. But if I tried writing on the subject, it would read as lame, naive, probably ill-informed, hand-wringing. Also, in typical codependent fashion, I don't want to risk pissing anybody off too much. We half fell out, by e-mail, with my American first cousin, the eldest, British-born son of my much-loved aunt, my mum's GI bride sister, not so much I think because we couldn't accommodate differing political views, but because we couldn't stomach each other's modes of expressing them, something to do with attitude rather than opinion. We resolved to stick with what he calls the "warm and fuzzy", ( I suppose what my frizzy friend would file under 'little fluffy white clouds'!) but somehow when you've ventured onto cold and thorny ground, the warm and fuzzy doesn't feel so safe any more. Perhaps I'm just being too British, perhaps that's the problem.

There are intelligent, brave, nobly-motivated people in this and every other sphere of the media who address political issues far better than I can. I am deeply admiring of and grateful to them. What they can't do and only I can, is attempt to relate my experience, to make something from the melding of my inner life with my perceptions of the outer world. Naturally, this will not bring about world peace, or accomplish any single practical thing of any significance, but it still seems to have been an important human thing to do, in one form or another, for a very long time.

Who was the most important writer to emerge from the American Civil War? Emily Dickinson. (Where did that come from, was it Salinger?). OK, I'll say it before someone else does: I knew Emily Dickinson, Emily Dickinson was a friend of mine, Senator, you are no Emily Dickinson!


andy said...

Putting aside for one moment details such as the fact that I don't live in France and my prose is clumsy and awkward, I could have written - or at least felt the need and desire to write - all of that.

I don't have any magic answers - if I did, I would have made my name and my fortune from them long ago. But I think perhaps we do this - blogging - out of a deep-seated desire to connect, and in some way this building of connections may yet turn out to be as world-changing, in its own quiet way, as any more overt means of influence and action. I hope so, anyway.

Lucy said...

Thanks, Andy. Yes, I also meant to say, to make something of my experience and also to try to share what I make. I don't know how much influenceit will have, I think there is a danger we must beware of that the internet actually contains and renders harmless protest, dissent, anger etc, and that we end up prefering this activity to "out there", and hence disappear. But I don't think this is inevitable.
Your prose is not at all clumsy and awkward. In saying mine was pretty and sensitive I was attempting to be ironic and self-deprecating!

andy said...

Ah, but its hard to be ironic about truth! However, since elegant might be a more accurate description of your writing than mere prettiness, I accept your explanation!

Although I hadn't thought about it in that way before, I see what you mean about the internet 'containing' ideas and emotions which might otherwise lead to action. A significant risk, and one to be addressed at a personal level. Food for thought - thank you.

Marly Youmans said...

So here you are at the beginning. I, too, avoid the political in public print--have long thought it absurd that people should look to storytellers and poets for political ideas.