Saturday, April 28, 2007
Perfect & Flawless
Two years ago, I came upon the “uncollected” stories of JD Salinger. This included his last published work, Hapworth 16, 1924 (which appeared in the New Yorker in 1965). The “story” is in the form of a long letter written by seven year old Seymour Glass to his family, when he and his brother are at summer camp.
The critical reviews of this story that I found on the net - I thought those were entirely inappropriate. That was NOT a dark work, but a funny and cheerful one.
I valued the distinction made by the protagonist in the story, Seymour Glass, between "perfect" and "flawless".
We can all find perfection in ourselves, howsoever flawed and sullied we are! Self-dissolution is the key; and adversity and suffering, valiantly borne, only aid this. Succour and cheer also come, often enough amidst the bleak reality - if one can see and feel the ever-present grace surrounding one; until one becomes immured to grasping for ephemeral happiness and running away from the unavoidable reality of dissolution, and simply is, amidst one's circumstances; internally a feeling, seeing, knowing being; and externally simply an instrument of life in its infinite mystery...
Here’s the relevant extract, for which I invoke the author’s kind approval.
John Bunyan. If I am getting too curt or terse, please excuse it, but I am racing to a brisk conclusion of this letter. All too frankly, I did not give this man a fair chance when I was younger, finding him too unwilling to give a few personal weaknesses, such as sloth, greed, and many others, the benefit of a few prickly, quite torturous doubts; I personally have met dozens upon dozens of splendid, touching human beings on the road of life who enjoy sloth to the hilt, yet remain human beings one would turn to in need, as well as excellent, beneficial company for children, such as the slothful, delightful Herb Cowley, fired from one menial, theatrical job after another! Does the slothful Herb Cowley ever fail his friends in need? Are his humor and jolliness not a subtle support to passing strangers? Does John Bunyan think God has some maddening prejudice against taking these things into very pleasant consideration on Judgment Day, which, in my forward opinion, quite regularly occurs between human bodies? Upon re-reading John Bunyan this time, I am aiming to give his natural, touching genius more recognition and admiration, but his general attitude is a permanent thorn in my side, I am afraid. He is too damnably harsh for my taste. Here is where a decent, private re-reading of the touching, splendid Holy Bible comes in very handy, freely preserving one’s precious sanity on a rainy day, the incomparable Jesus Christ freely suggesting, as follows: “Be ye therefore perfect, even as your Father which is in heaven is perfect.” Quite right; I do not find one thing unreasonable there, far from it; however, John Bunyan, a baptized Christian warrior, to be sure, seems to think the noble Jesus Christ said, as follows: “Be ye therefore flawless, even as your Father which is in heaven is flawless!” My God, here is inaccuracy incarnate! Did anybody say anything about being flawless? Perfection is an absolutely different word, magnificently left hanging for the human being’s kind benefit throughout the ages! That is what I call thrilling, sensible leeway. My God, I am fully in favor of a little leeway or the damnable jig is up! Fortunately, in my own forward opinion, based on the dubious information of the unreliable brain, the jig is never damnable and never up; when it maddeningly appears to be, it is merely time to rally one’s magnificent forces again and review the issue, if necessary, quite up to one’s neck in blood or deceptive, ignorant sorrow, taking plenty of decent time to recall that even our magnificent God’s perfection allows for a touching amount of maddening leeway, such as famines, untimely deaths, on the surface, of young children, lovely women and ladies, valiant, stubborn men, and countless other, quite shocking discrepancies in the opinion of the human brain. However, if I keep this up, I will firmly decline to give this immortal author, John Bunyan, a quite decent re-reading this summer. I swiftly pass on to the next author on the disorderly list.