at Penn today: do you strive against loneliness? words from Beryl Markham

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

Before my students set out across the campus with camera in hand today, they reflected, among other things, on these words from Beryl Markham, quoted in Vivian Gornick's The Situation and the Story: The Art of Personal Narrative.

I know that I have a good class when the students are willing to disagree, are eager to look at shades and nuances, work their own experience into the equation. I have a very good class.

But what do you think? Does Beryl Markham, in this passage from West with the Night, speak for you? Or is loneliness not quite as abhorrent as she makes it out to be?
You can live a lifetime and, at the end of it, know more about other people than you know about yourself. You learn to watch other people, but you never watch yourself because you strive against loneliness. If you read a book, or shuffle a deck of cards, or care for a dog, you are avoiding yourself. The abhorrence of loneliness is as natural as wanting to live at all. If it were otherwise, men would never have bothered to make an alphabet, nor to have fashioned words out of what were only animal sounds, nor to have crossed continents—each man to see what the other looked like.  


Richard Gilbert said...

She nails what arises in the human tension between freedom/exile and security/slavery.

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