John Gardner’s Letter

Gardner brings up the point that everything will eventually end. I am fascinated by this concept so I was delighted when I saw the concept in his novel. I keep a map of the solar system from a magazine in front my writing desk. The map has a Google map location marker right above Earth, along with the words “you are here”. It sounds odd enough, but I always look at the map to remind myself where I am. It is so easy to loose myself in the daily trivial matters. The map reminds me of my place in the universe, that my troubles are nothing in the passage of time. The small problems that used to bother me simply disappears whenever I look at the map. Gardner then says that we don’t need to live on the eternal values. Similarly in China, there is a saying that to live is to seek the thrill of living and to enjoy such feeling. As humans living in the vast indifference of the universe, we can only strive for a moment of happiness and prosperity instead of reaching for the unreachable eternity. In truth, we can only borrow everything in our lifetime. Nothing really belongs to us, not even our deposits in the bank, our body, or our relationships, etc. Only our feelings are ours, but even they vanish with time.

Gardner also suggests that “when working with art, one must read as much with one’s emotions as with one’s mind.” This is very true as far as I understand. Our emotions act as instincts that guide us through the blurry meanings of art, such as in a music piece. I often had to rely on my emotions to guide me through the notes and rhythms. The fact that something as emotional as humans can be born out of the indifferent universe amazes me. We not only drown in our sentiments, we also create various means to express such feelings and affect others through a shift in the air. For example, our instruments create ripples that reach out to everyone within the range to convey basic feelings. Whenever I read a composition I feel as if I am intruding into the deepest part of the composer’s emotions; it feels strangely intimate.

(I am also glad to find Gardner explain the part in which Beowulf bangs Grandel’s head against the wall.)




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