As we start the new year 2020, I begin with, what I consider is, a great passage from William Faulkner’s novel Absalom. Absalom! I grew up with my father being an avid reader, including his great liking of William Faulkner. My late father, a lawyer, would say that Faulkner’s novels were very appealing as Faulkner never shied away from acknowledging the negative underbelly of life, but at the same time never included these elements with a sense of judgment or preaching. These negative elements are depicted as an inevitable, and universal, component of our lives.
On the flip side, my father also often reiterated that this non-judgment does not mean that we simply become a passive doormat and let the world’s negative elements run us over. No. We should deal, as necessary, head-on with these elements using whatever response, including reasonable force, is required.
Now, after I have been lawyering for many years, where I believe we tend to veer off this non-judgmental path is when we fret and fume about the principle of a negative element. If not held in check, we focus more on being upset, and wasting valuable time, pondering and ruminating in principle about the “why”, “how dare they”. “why does it have to be this way”, “why do we have evil”, etc. Instead, I believe we are better off trying to concentrate only on actually addressing these situations directly and head on without the wasted expenditure of unnecessary fretting and rumination. This is simply my offer of food for thought as we begin 2020.
Below is the Faulkner excerpt that, in my opinion, plays directly into the suggestion I set forth above for all of us (including for me). I believe Faulkner’s commentary is a great, realistic summary of life that can help us not fret and fume in wishing it were otherwise:
You get born and you try this and you dont know why only you keep on trying it and you are born at the same time with a lot of other people, all mixed up with them, like trying to, having to, move your arms and legs with strings only the same strings are hitched to all the other arms and legs and the others all trying and they dont know why either except that the strings are all in one another’s way like five or six people all trying to make a rug on the same loom only each one wants to weave his own pattern into the rug; and it cant matter, you know that, or the Ones that set up the loom would have arranged things a little better, and yet it must matter because you keep on trying or having to keep on trying and then all of a sudden it’s all over and all you have left is a block of stone with scratches on it provided there was someone to remember to have the marble scratched and set up or had time to, and it rains on it and the sun shines on it and after a while they dont even remember the name and what the scratches were trying to tell, and it doesn’t matter.
William Faulkner, from Absalom. Absalom! [Vintage International Edition 1990]