Friday, 9 May 2008

New Love

Sometimes I read something that is just so right, so much a fit with the nebulous thoughts about life, politics, and hope in the face of the unravelling state of the world that my breath catches and I have to remind myself to breathe whilst revelling in the wonder of someone articulating just exactly what I've had in my mind.

And the rejoicing that someone, and an author no less, has thought these things, and thinks that it's worth putting them out there. That a voice is worth having, that no matter how small that voice seems, it is worth hearing. Especially when the things written have excited 'mainstream' accusations of treason and un-patriotic sentiment in the author's home country.

Who has excited me to this point of adulation and bluster? My newfound love, Barbara Kingsolver (author of The Poisonwood Bible) and a collection of her writings, Small Wonder: Essays.

Published in 2002, it contains some considered responses to the events of September 11, 2001. These are notable for their poetic calls for a common sense and heart-centered reaction to the attacks on America. But the collection is so much more than just that. Barbara, (I just can't bring myself to come over all undergrad and call her Kingsolver) by including a selection of essays that covers life's topics in all their breadth, puts the war in Iraq into an everyday context; reminding us that while lives are expended in a faraway land in the name of a vengeful justice, we still grow our children up, wash dishes, worry about species extinction and genetic engineering, work out our relationships with our mothers, and embarrass ourselves occasionally. She calls us to remember that the 'news' of the day on the box or in the newspaper may not be our news of the day, or what we want to know about what happened today.

In a world where we're expected to be up-to-the-minute informed about the latest whatever, Barbara Kingsolver stands up and asks, "Says WHO?" She advocates for a thoughtful approach to what you let into your mind and life, and ask everything to prove it's usefulness to you. This is not to say that she shies away from the difficult topics. The very opposite is true: careful reading and research go into her essays, and, one gets the impression, into her life. I was inspired by her courage to write words like these:
Political urgencies come and go, but it's a fair enough vocation to strike one match after another against the dark isolation, when spectacular arrogance rules the day and tries to force hope into hiding. It seems to me that there is still so much to say that I had better raise up a yell across the fence. I have stories of things I believe in: a persistent river, a forest on the edge of night, the religion inside a seed, the startle of wingbeats when a spark of red life flies against all reason out of the darkness...I'd like to speak of small wonders, and the possibility of taking heart.
Indeed.

3 comments:

kris said...

Oh, I will have to get this from the library. I love Kingslover - Animal, Vegetable, Mineral was one of my favourite reads last year.

Suse said...

I haven't heard of this collection, but I'll look it out as I adore BK's books and her philosophy in general.

A Day That Is Dessert said...

I love Barbara Kingsolver - haven't read that one yet. Read Animal, Vegetable, Miracle over the summer and it was life changing.