132: “If He Cannot Tell Her” (Sarah Perry)

                “Without Cora, he finds his thoughts lack direction. What, after all, is the point of observing this, of encountering that, if he cannot tell her, and watch her laugh or frown in response?” -Sarah Perry, The Essex Serpent
                “Surprised by joy–impatient as the Wind  /  I turned to share the transport–” -William Wordsworth

                In college, my friend Tauhid introduced me to a game: pick a word and make up an etymology for it. The only one I still remember is “ex-ist:” “ex,” he said, “like exoskeleton, meaning ‘outside;’ ‘-ist,’ like activist or accompanist, meaning ‘one who does.’ So to exist is to be someone who shares their thoughts, who goes outside. Maybe a thought doesn’t really exist until you share it with someone else. Maybe I don’t really exist until I talk to you.”
                (It turns out a lot of what he ‘made up’ is actually true. I wonder if he knew that, or if he was just imagining along the same lines as the Romans who said existere).
                I think we help make things true for one another. That can frighten me, because in that there’s a kind (perhaps?) of dependence, and I grew up with Wild West stories and the West Side Story guy who “never asked nothing from nobody.” But we do ask something from somebody. I would rather live that way than not, I think. There might be a kind of dependence, but we always were a web with many strings, vibrating to each other’s movements. And there’s a kind of joy there, too. We say, “You can depend on me;” why not admit that I depend on you?
                Recently I saw a mother talking to her young boy. He didn’t want anyone else to touch his new game. “But it’s a game for more than one person, isn’t it?” she said. “You can’t really play alone.” Sometimes I want to line up my ambitious friends, my students with their thoughts of “success,” my Wild-West-watching self, and tell that mother, “Remind us all again.”

One thought on “132: “If He Cannot Tell Her” (Sarah Perry)

  1. that quote by Wordsworth…”surprised by joy”… must be what inspired C.S. Lewis when he wrote about his wife Joy. I can’t remember what he titled that, if it was a whole book or an essay on love, but something. Poignantly and hugely thought provoking, as always. love, Rosie


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