Sunday, February 14, 2016

Wright Morris on Childhood

"To the Reader," from Wright Morris's Will's Boy: A Memoir, published in 1981:
Few things are so wondrous as our assurance that we are each at the center of a cosmos. Nor does learning we are not long disturb us. In the early thralldom of this feeling we accumulate the indelible impressions we will ceaselessly ponder but never question, pebbles that we fondle in the mind’s secret pockets. One center and one only lies within us, as clearly perceived in a dream of Joseph, told by Thomas Mann.
                 For lo, the world hath many centers,
            one for each created being, and about
            each one it lieth in its own circle.

     Since first reading those words my mind has sought an image that is commensurate with my wonder. One I find congenial is that of a vast tranquil pond on which a light rain is falling. Each drop that falls is the center of a circle that is soon overlapped by other circles. The apparent obliteration of the circle does not eliminate the radiating vibrations. This image of endlessly renewed and expanding circles is my own ponderable cosmos.
     The first of my childhood impressions is that of lampglow and shadows on a low ceiling. But under my steadfast gaze it dissolves like tissue. It resists both fixing and enlargement. What I am left with is the ache of a nameless longing. On my child’s soul lampglow and shadows have left radiating circles that a lifetime drizzle of lapping and overlapping, have not washed away.

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