It has been lamentations that have stuck with me, well beyond the moment I first encountered them in my reading or elsewhere. For while joy seems fleeting, its emotional high ephemeral, sorrow and its origins maintain a powerful and lasting presence in my memory.
With that introduction, I begin an occasionally series of posts of lamentations that have had such a deep impact on me.
The selection below comes from Annie Dillard’s wonderful book For the Time Being. I must first offer apologies to Dillard, for although I have accurately quoted the selection below, I know that I have taken it out of the context of her engaging book on what it means to be alive. Nonetheless, her image of a man hammering the sky has remained with me, a visceral expression of rage against the heavens.
On the shore beyond me I saw a man splitting wood. He was a distant figure in silhouette across the water. I heard a wrong ring. He raised his maul and it clanged at the top of its rise. He drove it down. I could see the wood divide and drop in silence. The figure bent, straightened, raised the maul with both arms, and again I heard it ring just as its head knocked the sky. Metal banged metal as a clapper bangs its bell. Then the figure brought down the maul in silence. Absorbed on the ground, skilled and sure, the stick figure was clobbering the heavens.
I saw a beached red dory. I could take the red dory, row out to the guy, and say: Sir. You have found a place where the sky dips close. May I borrow your maul? You maul and your wedge? Because, I thought, I too could hammer the sky --- crack it at one blow, split it at the next --- and inquire, hollering at God the compassionate, the all-merciful, WHAT'S with the bird-headed dwarfs?
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