Monday, February 28, 2011

In search of

The room I'm in has two doorways. One led me in, and the other leads out.

I've been in this room for a while now, but I've been going through rooms like it almost for as long as I can remember. I'm looking for something, and all I know is that it is in one of these rooms. If I keep searching, sooner or later I'm going to find it. When I do, I'll be able to stop, but until then my feet burn and there is no rest.

The rooms come one after another in a regular procession, each a little more spacious, each a little better lit, each a little more unsettling than the one before it. And though I enter the room nervously, the result has been the same each time. After a few weeks, I relax and feel at home until, eventually, I notice a pungent smell and I'm forced to move on, further up and further in.

Sometimes I don't know where my journey is leading me, whether to a frozen sea with men submerged in the ice up to their necks, or even deeper a few miles further; or to the warm brilliance that outshone Beatrice. But wherever it leads, this is the journey I am walking, and will follow it to the end. Once you pass through the wicker-gate there is no way to leave the road, not even when the light fails, as it often will.

I feel like I'm getting closer, that the end of my search may lie just beyond the next door, but I've felt that way before.

And now I am at the door, and my hand is upon the handle. In all probability, one of two things lies in the room beyond: a body, badly decomposed, or Nothing. And if there is another door on the far side of the room, my search will continue.

Monday, February 14, 2011

Seeing the stitches

I wonder what it was that first made Victor Frankenstein view his creation with such horror.

He was in a state of euphoria as he worked on the monster. It was the culmination of his work in natural philosophy, the act by which he was surpassing every scholar who had gone before him. It was going to lay the foundation for his remaining life's work. He worked, he gave the creature structure and form, and he gave it life.

And then, Shelley notes, he started to hate it.

Was it the size of his creation that drove him mad? Now that it had come to life, was it too big for him to properly understand? Now that it was living, had it suddenly grown into something too large and too complex for him to wrap even his great mind around? Did he foresee that this simple idea of creating, now that he had invested himself in it, would take him places he never would want to go? Did he realize even then the grief it would bring him?

Or maybe it was, now that the blind zeal of his initial faith had worn off, that he noticed imperfections he hadn't allowed him to see in those months leading up to its creation. Its skin was too thin, the toes weren't on straight, the arms weren't the same length, and overall it lacked the grace and polish he had convinced himself that it had.

When he looked at it objectively, perhaps Frankenstein realized that what he had achieved, what he had believed in, and what he had dedicated his life to, made no sense.

The monster lived, and moved, and breathed, but it had no business doing any of those things. It was assembled piecemeal from different sources that had too little in common with one another to give the creature true coherence. Here was an eye from Albrecht the doctor, there a forearm from Kleber, and there was a heart from Herr Bl├╝cher. Still other pieces came cobbled from one grave or another, from places and persons he never knew, but that surely weren't as radiant as those he did.

By the evidence of his eyes and his reason, Frankenstein knew the parts didn't belong together, no matter how he had tried to edit them together. He could see the thousands of sutures it took to hold them together. The sheer folly of attempting to cobble together a living creature from all these different sources, imposing harmony where none existed, drove him to despair.

One wonders how each of us will respond when we have such moments of clarity about our life's work. God grant that we are spared Frankenstein's fate.

Copyright © 2011 by David Learn. Used with permission.