Pixels Thin and Thick
On the day I got married, Jerry said to me after the ceremony, “Look in the mirror!” Puzzled, I pulled down the car mirror, looked, and said aloud,
I looked different. Like a photo that has more pixels. It was a very odd change. I surmised that it signaled my having acquired a denser presence to my life.
Recently by contrast, I’ve had the worried sense that my pixels might be thinning out!
An analogy comes to mind. I like to watch videos that show unusual animal friendships. Recently I saw one featuring orangutans who live in a zoo complex that tries to replicate their natural environment. These animals have certain traits we can recognize. For example, they like to be admired! In normal times, zoo visitors have been glad to cater to this taste and the gratified orangs would preen, flirt and even wink in response! However, for more than a year now, the fans have been kept away by the virus. The bleachers are empty.
The results have been dramatic. The orangs are depressed, listless and visibly lonely. The zoo keepers, fearing that this condition might be — quite literally — the death of them, decided to introduce a new species into their section.
It might have seemed an implausible guess. But lo! after a brief interlude of mutual uncertainty, the two species have bonded and are now crazy about each other! Who needs humans when you’ve got otters? I’m happy to report that both are looking good and doing well.
For me, the video made vivid what loneliness can do. But I have precious friends. I have Jerry and we love each other. Why am I feeling abandoned and precarious? What has changed in my life to produce these reactions?
Actually, that question’s not a hard one to answer. A whole lot has changed. My book, Confessions of a Young Philosopher, on which I’ve been at work over most of a lifetime, is now moving into production. The “Dear Abbie”columns are now regularly reprinted in VoegelinView, which is the online journal of the American Political Science Association’s Eric Voegelin Society. It gets a distinguished readership. These columns are now being published additionally as podcasts. So my voice is pitching in to add its bodily backing to what I’ve written. And I’m startled to discover that I still believe and can stand behind what I’ve earlier penned here.
Beyond all this, two themes that colored and shaped my lifelong purposes have been resolved. I’ve mentioned these resolutions in recent columns. The first was my filial obligation – what I, as his daughter, owed to an inimitable father. The second theme, noticed only after I’d settled with the first, involved the painful memory of my Parisian first love. It lay below the rim of my experience — a story without an ending, a question without an answer, a challenge without a shape. Abruptly, one recent morning, it ceased to haunt me – or even concern me! It’s done. I’ve never read about such a thing or heard of it. But there it is.
So I feel like a person standing at the border of untrodden territory. Landmarks long familiar are gone – no longer in front of me to mark the way, nor even beside me. It all looks unmapped and, for me, unprecedented.
The negative face of this has been the feeling of precariousness and abandonment.
What’s the positive side?
I am where I should be.