There are times when we all feel a little defeated and lost about the future. This heavy cloud hung over J and I the entire weekend, which was marked by stretches of talking and thinking -
- and, of course, (for comfort and mental sustenance) book-shopping!
One of the books we picked up from Kinokuniya is this illustrated story, Safe from harm by Rollo Armstrong (of Faithless) and Jason White.
In the book, 10 year-old Jack decides he will stop eating altogether. But his decision gets him smacked, angry, bitter, confused, and determined to leave home. So he wonders out at night into the streets, which turn into woods, and there, together with a group of monsters, he journeys to the top of a mountain and comes face to face with himself. It's like an updated version of Sendak's Where the Wild Things Are, but also more. Chiefly because the narrative and illustrations run alongside a parallel narrative made up entirely of quotations from a motley of writers, philosphers, thinkers...Joyce, Twain, Rilke, Woolf, Whitman, Maxim Gorky, Aristotle, Carlyle, Hobbes etc.
For instance, when Jack contemplates a difficult decision and daunting task for the future, Mark Twain comes in to advise:
tender handed, stroke a nettleAnd when Jack returns home, having come full circle and knowing full well that nothing has really changed (except himself), there are these lines by Matthew Arnold signaling a contentment with just being alive:
and it stings for its pains
Grip it like a man of mettle
And soft as silk it remains
- "The Calm Confidence of a Christian" from The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn
It is no small thingAnd so, in turn, I quote here these passages from Jack's story for anyone who is feeling just that bit more battered and lost than usual. Let Monday begin!
To have enjoyed the sun
To have lived light in the spring
To have loved, to have thought, to have done
- from "Empodecles on Etna"