Last time I said I’d be back soon to talk about my reading, but I’m afraid that in the past week I only made progress in the sense that I’m now in the middle of even more books. Still, I wanted to share the first lines of the year to stop me in my tracks: they’re the closing verses of Adrienne Rich’s “From a Survivor”, from Diving Into the Wreck:
Next year it would have been 20 yearsThis idea of moving forward incrementally, of being patient, of closing the gap between the life you have and the life you long for step by step, is of course not new to me. Still, reading these verses had the force of revelation. This is what good writing does: it can tell you something new, but it can also reconfigure what you already know in a way that deepens your understanding of it. I needed this the day I read “From a Survivor”, without really knowing it was what I needed. I’ll need this patience, I think, both when it comes to my own life and to the world at large — which is of course still the stuff of my life.
and you are wastefully dead
who might have made the leap
we talked, too late, of making
which I live now
not as a leap
but a succession of brief, amazing movements
each one making possible the next
I nearly forgot I had promised to show you the books I got for Christmas and my birthday. This year’s theme was, in part, “get nice editions of books I already love but don’t own”, which at least meant I wasn’t adding to my TBR pile as much:
For so much of my adult life, in great secrecy, I’ve felt a deep concern that part of me would always feel alone, misinterpreted, or unreachable. That feeling of aloneness was more familiar and constant to me than any romance had ever been, so much that I drew strength from it. The fear we experience, when despite all we try to give in love, we still emerge feeling that we may never truly be seen — this can have a bewildering effect that causes us to act in ways that aren’t true to who we are. In this case, to remain territorial even after the relationship ran its course, to assert our positions and entitlements, to find fault, the refusal to wish someone well when they no longer meet your personal needs. The song is an expression of faith in complete, unmotivated responsiveness in love and that our own capacity to love extends so far beyond the boundaries of what we’ve been told and lead to believe.It matters to me too, this idea.
But the argument that politicians have no choice but to submit to vague notions of public opinion ignores one crucial fact. Public opinion isn’t formed independently, but driven by narratives from the political class and the media. Decades of anti-migrant rhetoric in parliament and the press has resulted in few voters having realistic ideas of the genuine level of migration, on both a national level and in their local community.Be kind to yourselves and each other this coming week. I think we’re all going to need it.