To read about F's and my London trip, start here and click "newer post" to continue the story.

Saturday, January 12, 2008

Been worthless today. Well, I made soup for a few future meals. I told R about 10:30 this morning, in some dismay, that I wasn't dressed yet; how trifling. But as he pointed out, it's Saturday and I've had a long week.

F went back to school Friday, so we're back to the empty nest.

I've been thinking about the relevance of literature to life in general, partly because of a conversation on Erin O'Connor's blog. At some point before my boss left town to do his cancer treatment, he and I and one of the other managers were talking and I made reference to Jack London's "To Build a Fire". They both gave me blank looks. No idea what I was talking about. "I am illiterate", my boss said. At home that evening I found the story online and emailed the link to them. My boss read it and passed the link along to his true-love so she could read it too. The other manager said, "I read that story you sent - that was awesome!" Y'all, there's an entire world of literature out there.

What's relevant about it? Well, for one thing, there's this:

The trouble with him was that he was without imagination. He was quick and alert in the things of life, but only in the things, and not in the significances. Fifty degrees below zero meant eighty odd degrees of frost. Such fact impressed him as being cold and uncomfortable, and that was all. It did not lead him to meditate upon his frailty as a creature of temperature, and upon man's frailty in general, able only to live within certain narrow limits of heat and cold; and from there on it did not lead him to the conjectural field of immortality and man's place in the universe. Fifty degrees below zero stood for a bite of frost that hurt and that must be guarded against by the use of mittens, ear-flaps, warm moccasins, and thick socks. Fifty degrees below zero was to him just precisely fifty degrees below zero. That there should be anything more to it than that was a thought that never entered his head.

Well, this is a very philosophical paragraph building you up to appreciate the main theme (HUBRIS, what a surprise), but it's true that being without imagination can cause people to do stupid things. I caught one of the operators in the plant without his eye protection and told him some very grim and dire things that I have unfortunately witnessed. And that he is very young, and should actually take pains above and beyond following the rules to protect himself b/c if something happened he would have the rest of his life to be disabled and to regret his casual attitude toward his PPE. What would happen, I asked, if he were on the catwalk over the tanks, and something splashed into his eyes? Suddenly blind, in a lot of pain, probably no one close enough to hear him cry out - how will he find the stairs and get himself down, and get to the eyewash station? These were new thoughts. He's had his hardhat and his eye protection on every time I've seen him since then. (Well, besides that, I told his boss and he was written up. Hey, if I didn't and he left off his PPE and got hurt, I could be liable.)

Some time back I emailed my mother, sister, and sister-in-law about this short story. We had a little discussion about it. I told my SIL that we probably ought to share stories and talk about them every now and then, just for culture's sake. "Oh, culture me!" she said. I thought we could call it the "Culture Me Reading Club". But we never did.


Tsiporah said...

That is a good idea. I need more classic literature in my life. I have really gotten away from reading for pleasure since I have been in school. When I do pick up a novel it is usally a piece of mindless garbage. Are there any short stories you could recommend maybe we can discuss them once a month. Or each blog about it from our own perspective.

Tsiporah said...

Dang I just re-read what I wrote. I am totally missing some punctuations, but I think you get the message. :-)

Laura(southernxyl) said...

We could give it a whirl.

To start - did you like either of these stories?