Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Reading Between the Tines

I've been thinking a lot today about perspective and distance, and also about whether small, random acts of kindness really matter. "Of course they do," we would almost all say hastily, and the whole "pay it forward" ideology/theology has been the subject of several movies (one of the same name) and at least one commercial. Honestly, I thought the movie was stupid and the whole idea frankly seems a little self-serving (i.e. we're always thinking about how our "deposits" will be returned). At the same time, like anyone else, I spend a lot of time trying to assess whether or not I am a good person and how I would know that. But the patterns just don't "make" up any quilt-like sense to me. Sometimes I feel sort of exhausted at trying to follow these lines to understand my own life (which I don't, let's be clear).

This morning I was reading through a journal called The American Scholar, mainly because I am supposed to be writing a book review about a novel whose main characters are a swimmer and a wrestler, and there is a GREAT article about swimming literature in it. But I digress. As I was reading through the magazine, I found an interesting poem called "It Cannot Be Said For Certain" by Kay Ryan.

It cannot be
said for certain
that imagining
a pattern is
Our acts could
matter. At some
unfathomed distance
the random
could condense
to something -- say
a fork -- against
the velvet dark.
The silver shiver
that we get from
time to time
somewhere adding
up to silver. The
vacancies we suffer
the necessary black
between the tines.

I really like this poem because:
1. I would like to believe that even the random dark is a part of necessary design.
2. Sound is essential to the poem's way of making meaning (try reading it out loud!)
3. I spend a lot of time trying to "understand" life, and sometimes I need to be reminded that I can't necessarily have the perspective I would like.
4. It's short.
5. I think even a fork can be being meaningful (or not meaningful). This made me think of a particular random moment in Paris when I picked up a pen for a guy and he said something to me that I couldn't understand.