Sunday, November 15, 2015
Book #46: Lila
Lila tells the story of the second wife of minister John Ames, the main character in Robinson's earlier novel Gilead. Until Lila meets and marries John, she lives a life of basic survival, without the context or the language to explore any larger sense of who she is or meaning in life.
Once, when they were out walking, he asked her what was on her mind, because she had been so quiet, and she said, "Nothing, really. Existence," which made him laugh with surprise and then apologize for laughing. He said, "I'd be interested to know your thoughts on it."
"I just don't know what to think about it at all sometimes."
He nodded. "It's remarkable, whatever else."
"Remarkable," she said, considering the word. . . . It had begun to seem to her that if she had more words she might understand things better. "You should be teaching me. . . . I had to learn that word 'existence.' You was talking about it all the time. It took me a while to figure out what you even meant by it."
Sometimes I contemplate this passage in the Bible and its relationship to the development of human consciousness: "In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God."
In a very real sense, words create the universe. We use language to describe that universe as we see it, our own known universe. Language defines but also elevates us, enabling us to transcend what we knew before. Language is key to understanding who we are, what it means to exist, what it means to exist together.
It is all of a process, an evolution, an ongoing creation.
The Word is with us.
We are in the middle of all of it, grappling, imperfectly conveying our perspective, imperfectly receiving from others. This past week especially. What is peace. What is moral. What is just. What is obedience, freedom, opportunity, equality, solidarity, truth, pain, safety, grace. What is love.
It can be so damn hard to figure out how to speak our own meaning, how to hear another's. Excruciating even.
But whenever we do, whenever we truly do, our known universe expands.
And that is remarkable, whatever else.