368: “Ocean” and “Foam” (Khalil Gibran)

“You have been told that, even like a chain, you are as weak as your weakest link.
This is but half the truth. You are also as strong as your strongest link.
To measure you by your smallest deed is to reckon the power of ocean by the frailty of its foam.”
-Khalil Gibran, The Prophet

                Today I worked for a long time on my book, and finished moving out of my old apartment, and scratched a dog’s chin, and ate a breakfast my partner made for me, and walked through floods of warm August light and cool August shadow, and got sweaty, and lounged on the couch, cool, and met with a professor about different kinds of research, and washed some laundry, and stayed out talking with new friends. I think, for my part, that I want to let go of the language of weakest and strongest. In some ways I suppose my novel (I’m almost done with the eighth draft!) is an ongoing project and laundry, for example, isn’t. But in other ways the wash of water and the rinse of suds is in the book. In other ways, again, the book is about returning to my body and to the wash of water and the rinse of suds. Any hierarchy there seems like a perspective that will pick out some characteristics and obscure others, like saying a screw is more its shape than its metal (or more its metal than its shape).
                At the same time, if I am going to say weakest link, I want to remember Gibran and say strongest, too. A couple people have mentioned to me the week I “lost” while recovering from COVID. I understand what they mean. I’ve stumbled into that language sometimes, too. But that judgment of lost seems so strange when I stop and look at it. It was a week of feeling my community reach out to support me. A week of hot tea. A week of a quiet room’s quiet hum. A week, yes, of coughing and coughing until my sides ached. If I’m going to pick pieces and say they stand in for wholes (like we do when we say, “So that’s what you really think of me,” or when we say, “In the end the project didn’t pan out”), I want to see the foam and the ocean. The wave and the wind. The kid playing with their toes in the shallow surf and the vast schools of fish glimmering. A lost week, a found week, a week playing hide and seek, and who knows what else besides.

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