I am old school, in my values, my thinking, my entertainment, my food, and more importantly in what I read and write. I can’t help and I refuse to change. That is my private world and leaving is impossible. I think that is why my novel, The Sin of Certainty, does not have the appeal it could have. My target audience is thinning out every day and frankly, I am okay with that (that lack of sales, not that my generation is dying). As Jimmy Buffet noted, I am an over forty victim of fate. So be it.
I am reading yet again, a very old copy of Les Miserables. I have had this copy for about thirty years and it is not the first copy I read of this masterpiece. I prefer this edition, the translation flows, making it a very easy read. The pages are yellow, the corners bent and worn. This tome sits at the pinnacle of my favorite books albeit that throne is a little crowded. Still, he sits in the middle, cuddling with Harper Lee and Joseph Conrad. Last night (I read about sixty pages of it, very slowly, savoring every word), I read Chapter 8 and I had to pause. I think this is quite the best metaphor I have ever read. If I could write this well, I would die poorer and happier than I can imagine. It is only 600 words long. God, this is how I feel about life.
Sea and Shadow
But the ship does not stop. The wind is blowing and the doom-laden vessel is set on a course from which it cannot depart. It sails on.
The man sinks and reappears, flings up his arms and shouts, but no one hears. The ship, heeling in the wind, is intent upon its business, and passengers and re have lost sigh to him, a pinpoint in the immensity of the sea.
He calls despairingly, gazing in anguish after the receding sail as, ghostlike, it fades from view. A short time ago he was on board, a member of the crew busy on deck with the rest, a living being with his share of air and sunlight. What has become of him now? H slipped and fell and this is the end.
He is adrift in the monstrous water with only their turbulence beneath him, hideously enclosed by wave- crests shredded by the wind, smothered as they break over his head, tumbled from one to another, rising and sinking into unfathomable darkness where he seems to become a part of the abyss, his mouth filled with bitter resentment at this treacherous ocean that is so resolved to destroy him, this monster toying with his death. To him the sea has become the embodiment of hatred.
But he goes on swimming, still struggles despairingly for life, his strength dwindling as he battles against the inexhaustible. Above him he can see only the bleak pallor of the clouds. He is the witness in his death throes of the immeasurable dementia of the sea, and, tormented by this madness, he hears sound unknown to man that seem to come from some dreadful place beyond the bound of earth. Here are birds flying amid the clouds as angels soar over the distresses of mankind, but what can they do for him? They sing as they glide and hove, while he gasps for life.
He is lost between the infinites of the sea and sky, the one a tomb, the other a shroud. Darkness is falling. He has swum for hours until his strength is at an end and the ship with its company of men has long since passed from sight. Solitary in the huge gulf of twilight he twists and turns, feeling the waves of the unknowable close in upon him. And for the last time he calls, but not to man. Where is God?
He calls to anyone or anything—he calls and calls but there is no reply, noting on the face of the waters, nothing in the heavens. He calls to the sea and spray, but they are deaf; he calls to the winds, but they are answerable only to infinity. Around him dusk and solitude, the heedless tumult of wild waters; within him terror and exhaustion; below him the descent into nothingness. No foothold. The chill numbs him. His hands open and close, clutching at nothing. Wind and tumult and useless stars. What can he do? Despair ends in resignation, exhaustion chooses death, and so at length he gives up the struggle and his body sinks forever.
Such is the remorseless progression of human society, shedding lives and souls as it goes on its way. It is an ocean into which men sink who have been cast out by the lay and consigned , with help most cruelly withheld, to moral death. The sea is the pitiless social darkness into which the penal system casts those it has condemned, an unfathomable waste of misery. The human soul, lost in those depths, may become a corpse. Who shall revive it?