Fashion statement

My body decided to ring in the new year with an upper respiratory disease. During a particularly unpleasant night of congestion, I found myself moved to sketch out a five part story describing a different kind of bodily betrayal.

When I made my top ten reads of 2017 list the other day, I forgot to mention Jack Vance’s novel, The Languages of Pao. It’s pretty much what you would get if you used the Sapir-Whorf hypothesis (that our language has a fundamental role in shaping how we perceive reality) as the basis for a space opera with Vance’s literary aplomb, and tendency to have characters speak as if they were in a comedy of manners – instead of a character responding to a question with, “I don’t deny it” you get “to deny it would be banal.”

I’m pretty dubious about Sapir-Whorf, but it makes for some good sci-fi. The movie Arrival is another good example.

Getting sick has also prompted me to pick up The Lord of the Rings again, which was due for a re-read, anyway. One of the novel’s aspects that doesn’t translate very well into cinema is its function as a travelogue: Tolkien’s painterly description of Middle-Earth’s unfolding landscape and the minutiae of Frodo’s journey is sometimes criticized for being a bit dull, but I find it soothing. The early chapters in particular always make me feel like I’m in the middle of a languid summer.

I do find it neat how drawing is now one of my first go-tos for distraction from something irksome like a cold – there’s something inherently joyful about creation, even if you’re just tossing off something silly and weird.

It feels sort of like a moral victory over the cold, to make it bear more fruit than just a lot of snot.

As a Catholic, I’m embarrassingly bad at the whole “offer it up” thing, whether it be a minor nuisance like this, or deeper hurts. It often feels very abstract in the face of what I happen to be dealing with. But, among other things, the point of it is to give suffering some definite shape, where it’s no longer this senseless thing you endure, but rather something which, in a mysterious fashion, bears spiritual fruit. Good thus comes out of evil, even if we may not always see that in this life. So I’m perhaps grasping something analogically instructive viz-a-viz art here.

It’s a bit of a deep pull in the context of a series of sketches where I rip my pants, but blame that on the viruses still inhabiting my head.

About Josh W

Scribbler and doodler
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2 Responses to Fashion statement

  1. Gaheret says:

    I´m sorry to hear you´re not feeling well. It came to my mind that “offer it up” is certainly not something to say lightly, for it is probably the hardest, most misterious and heroic thing a human being can do. The way or the manner to the true offer we don´t know, but only God. It requires our cooperation, yet it has to do more with not doing something than with doing something: we are guided there by unique, obscure and personal ways only God knows. It´s an unspeakable thing, also, and would be an impossible problem (to try to solve it would be even blasphemous, as in the friends of Job) without the Cross and the Mass. They inaugurate a sort of new hierarchy in which we humans, as an enormous cirque du freak, suffer in a small, miserable, bizarre, different ways the classics could not ever conceive, and yet there is light and hope. I got that feeling from Severian´s world in Wolfe, and from Sigrid Undset and Franz Werfel´s novels, and in Dostoyevski, and in Gertrurd von Le Fort´s The last of the Scaffold, and in Housman´s Life of Agloval de Galis, and maybe in Dickens, to a lesser degree. And there is the mistery of the fruit, certain but often invisible, as you point out, like a hidden Resurrection. It´s a strange world, really…

    • Josh W says:

      You’re definitely correct that a proper account of it is impossible without the Cross and the Mass, where God enters into human suffering.

      I find your idea interesting about “offering it up” to not be something said lightly, since it seems to run counter to at least what strikes me as the prevailing attitude when that phrase comes up (which isn’t flippant, per se, but sees it as an easy piece of spiritual advice).

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