Monday, July 12, 2010

Relationships: The Rewards of Linkage


I often doubt that value of social-networking gizmos such as Facebook. I sometimes even wonder why I bother to blog. But every once in awhile something comes my way via Facebook, or descends upon me out of the blogosphere, that makes it all worthwhile.

Example: today I read this excellent short story by Donald Hall, a link to which was posted by Pentimento on her outstanding blog. In conjunction with that, yesterday I started reading the 1987 memoir And a Voice to Sing With by Joan Baez. I had purchased the book years ago at a public library used book sale, but had never gotten around to reading it. It took a conversation about the ‘sixties, Bob Dylan, and Joan Baez that I had with Pentimento via Facebook to prod me into finding the book. I haven’t been disappointed. As it happens, I was privileged to briefly meet both Donald Hall and Joan Baez in Ann Arbor, back in the day (circa 1968), so the conjunction of these cyber-social interactions and the readings they’ve inspired constitute the kind of synchronicity of which I’ve written before.

Below is a passage from Hall’s short story that I found to be a particularly insightful comment on the human condition. I urge you to follow the link above and read the whole story. The passage is the reminiscence of an aging woman, who as a child had to cope with her discovery of her mother’s infidelity and the resultant changes in the dynamics of her family:

Surely I was changed forever. Life at the farm was calm, but I lived elsewhere in my fancy. I absented myself by reading stories, imagining myself a reckless heroine or a pathetic victim. Outside the house of fiction I was chronically restless. Nothing in life, I knew, was what it appeared to be. When I read a story by Nathaniel Hawthorne, I recognized the minister and his pious congregation who met at midnight in the woods to celebrate mass for the devil. I knew that by universal conspiracy we agreed to deny the secret wickedness of every human being. We needed, every hour, to understand that the fabric of routine covered unseen deceptions and enormities. We also needed to remember that the cloth must show no rips or tears, and that this covering was as real as anything. I admired the fabrics my father and mother wove, whatever might throb or coil underneath the cloth. [italic emphasis added]

Oh, what tangled webs we weave…
The graphic is a self-portrait of Joan Baez as a young girl, lifted from her memoir.