Friday, April 18, 2014

A Smaller, Deeper World

The recent deaths of writers Gabriel Garcia Marquez and Peter Matthiessen bring home a truth about those of us in our 60s now: our world is getting smaller.

 The deaths of our near contemporaries is always sobering, and they represent a loss even if they are people we used to know and haven't even thought about for years.  There were also two such deaths in my life this past week (or actually I became aware of two.) But older writers like Marquez and Matthiessen are different--they are giants in our world.  We shared the same world with them for all our lives. And although they were perhaps unlikely to produce new work, we do feel the loss of that potential contribution to renewing our world, and especially, their presence in it.

This goes hand in hand with the diminished interest in much of the completely new--new writers, new music, etc. which is to a great extent a withdrawal from the concerns they represent.  My eyes skip through the tech news, reporting every new wrinkle and complication involving devices and services I don't use.  I scan a political site like TPM and on some, maybe most days, I feel like I should be reading with a bowl of popcorn in my lap.  It's entertainment level repetition, political versions of the Three Stooges mostly.

There is an urge now towards deepening rather than skating along the superficial and the social.  Reading becomes re-reading, watching re-watching.  And there is some subtle shift when much if not most of that reading and watching and listening is of contributions by people now dead.  In the abstract at least it seems to make the prospect of death easier, the sense of rejoining your world that is fading away from this plane of existence.

Yet these undiminished voices still speak here and now.  I am re-watching a seminar by James Hillman.  I am re-reading a book by Marquez, and there are many more in my library.  The newness may be partly a product of aging memory, which may be to look a gift horse in the mouth.  But it isn't just that, because it wasn't just that in years past--re-reading always revealed something new, because there was something new in me.  And that doesn't end.

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