Thursday, June 19, 2014

Invaded by the Marvelous

I could watch Emily Blunt peel potatoes. Last night I got pulled in to "Salmon Fishing in the Yemen." Maybe it's a chick flick. Or maybe it's a fishing movie that also has Obi-Wan Kenobi (Ewan McGregor) in it. I'll go with the latter to try to hold on to my man card, loosely.

But something, a line, a thought, struck me. I had been thinking about it earlier in the day, the week, the month, a lifetime.

"She thinks I am genetically programmed to return to dull, pedestrian life," Dr. Alfred Jones (Obi-Wan McGregor) says. The movie is set up with Blunt, McGregor and a sheik trying to do something theoretically possible, likely impossible, possibly making no difference. An act of hubris? Maybe. But an act, of difference, of passion, of eccentricity. An act of faith. An act in the face of dull, pedestrian life.

Rewind a bit. I was thinking of the novels of Charles Williams. His "Greater Trumps" is one of the few academic things I remember from N.C. State. He was tight with Tolkien, T.S. Eliot, and C.S. Lewis. Of Williams' novels, Lewis remarked, "He is writing that sort of book in which we begin by saying, let us suppose that this everyday world were at some point invaded by the marvelous."

Invaded by the marvelous. Boom. There it is. One, a word (marvelous) we should use more often, with or without a Billy Crystal accent. Two, what life lacks unless we look for it. The marvelous.

Rewind a bit further. I am sitting on the back porch Saturday morning, reading Virginia Woolf's "The Waves." The thoughts of one of her characters, Rhoda, go into a sort of ecstatic reverie. It's sustained over two pages, gaining speed with something like, "I see the side of a cup like a mountain... and the brightness on the side of that jug like a crack in darkness with wonder and terror." And then she cranks it up into this:

Yet there are moments when the walls of the mind grow thin; when nothing is unabsorbed, and I could fancy that we might blow so vast a bubble that the sun might set and rise in it and we might take the blue of midday and the black of midnight and be cast off and escape from here and now.

The marvelous. It's what McGregor and Blunt need. It's what Williams dreams up. It is what Rhoda, and maybe Woolf, saw in the everyday. The marvelous can stomp out the dull and pedestrian. Instead of staring sullenly ahead, we might marvel. We might marvel.

Where I want to part ways with Williams and Lewis is the "invaded" part. If we wait to be invaded by the marvelous, we might wind up waiting for Godot. We might spend too much time looking at our watches. We might not seek out the marvelous. We might not look for it, we might miss it standing right in front of us, trying to pull us out of our fu**ing pedestrian ruts.

If you're lucky, maybe you will be invaded by the marvelous. Or maybe you can set out. Instead of marvelous, go active, make it a verb. Marvel.

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