Shall we read a poem? Just one?

Or we could finish reading that George Saunders essay?

We finished it-‘Stay open, forever, so open it hurts, and then open up some more, until the day you die, world without end, amen.’ Remember?

Oh yeah. Alright then.

Pastoral 1

When I was younger
it was plain to me
I must make something of myself.
Older now
I walk the back streets
admiring the houses
of the very poor:
roof out of line with sides
the yards cluttered
with old chicken wire, ashes,
furniture gone wrong;
the fences and outhouses
built of barrel-staves
and parts of boxes, all,
if I am fortunate,
smeared a bluish green
that properly weathered
pleases me best of all colors.

No one
will believe this
of vast import to the nation.


I suppose it is something to do with honoring the poor, —

Nah-— sorry, go on.


You first!

Well, when he was young, he thought that making something of himself—being rich and successful—was where it was at. But now here he is among the vast detail of the poor, and he realizes that the world is big, and this is important.

Hmm. I disagree.

Ok, go ahead.

He’s saying that he used to be a young rationalist, and he intended to do what was maximally good with his life, because it was logically impossible and therefore literally unimaginable that anything could be better than that. And then he grew up and found himself standing among these chicken wires and rubble and it’s transcendently beautiful, and he’s like ‘man, I really needed to get out of the car’.

So, he learned that these mundane things were beautiful?

No, not beauty traditionally understood. More the kind of transcendent beauty that everything arguably has. He’s found a new kind of thing rather than having clearly learned anything in his previous sense of learning things or found anything nice to look at in his previous sense. What has overall happened and how these things relate to each other, he struggles to put into words, but he also finds that his previous devotion to putting things into words has waned anyway, and not having words no longer feels like unconsciousness..

Oh, I see—-he was a young rationalist, and then he listened to Hamilton the Musical. Your account doesn’t make sense of the end though: “No one … will believe this … of vast import to the nation.”

I can’t even parse it. No one will believe this, which is of vast import to the nation?

No, I think, ‘no one will believe that this is of vast import to the nation’

Ah-then it makes sense: this new thing is of vast import to the nation, but no-one will believe that.

Seems like a stretch that it is of vast import to the nation.

Well if it is vastly important-and it seems to be, because it has transformed his world-then it is probably also vastly important on a national scale. Like, the nation and the transcendent beauty are probably not in separate magisteria.

Ah. I like your interpretation. It might even be right.

It would be nice to be able to contact the author and check. Is he dead?

I think so. Maybe the internet can tell us something.

I don’t know, they might just read into it something about whatever they have going on.

Loosely based on reality

  1. By William Carlos Williams