New Year : New Thoughts

January 4, 2011

Because the last book I’d read was just an OK-to-read /good-writing /but-not-life-changing book, and because I have a couple of must-read /helpful-for-me books in the queue, I knew better than to let myself go to the library and peruse the new fiction shelves.  I needed to get those waiting books under my belt….But what would I read when I didn’t feel like reading the necessary ones–for fun–when I needed to rest, when my work was done for the day?  It’ s not like we have zero books in this house, so I pulled a collection of short stories from a bookcase downstairs.  I could pick it up and put it down easily, and because a good story draws me in and keeps me so easily, this seemed a good choice.  And so it has been….

“In The Moonlight” (also called “Moonlight” on the internet) by Guy de Maupassant was one very short story that grabbed me, especially in thinking about the subject: “New.”  (And I do so love themes–which fits so readily into B&B stuff, by the way….seasonal colors, holiday dishes, you can see what I mean.)  In a nutshell, it’s about a guy who was the poster kid for the phrase:  “I’m right, so don’t confuse me with the facts.”  And since I know something about this, :), the story’s punch socked me.

The background:  The Abbe Marignan….All his ideas were fixed, and they never wavered.  He sincerely believed that he understood….imagining,…he searched obstinately…and he nearly always found the reason…Everything in nature seemed to him created with an absolute…logic…. 

A  problem:  …All day long, he remained silent, filled with indignation and rage….he grew more and more exasperated.  When it struck ten, he took his walking stick, a formidable oaken club which he always carried when he had to go out at night to visit the sick  Smilingly he regarded the enornous cudgel, holding it in his strong, countryman’s fist and cutting threatening circles with it in the air.  Then, suddenly, he raised it, and grinding his teeth, he brought it down upon a chair, the back of which split in two, and fell to the ground…

He opened his door to go out; but he stopped…surprised…

He began to breathe deep, drinking in the air as drunkards drink their wine, and he walked slowly, delighted, surprised….

The abbe continued his walk, his courage failing, he knew not why.  He felt…enfeebled, and suddenly exhausted; he had a great desire to sit down, to stop there….

Why…?  why?…

….he fled, in distraction, almost ahamed, as if he had penetrated into a temple where he had no right to enter.

The story is short, but obviously something pretty big has happened.  And the abbe is changed….We’ve all experienced this–thinking, without a doubt, that we’re absolutely and positively RIGHT–until something pretty big happens to show how wrong we really were….  In elementary school, at those “right” moments, I would wave my arm wildly for the teacher to call on me, only to be passed by in enormous disappointment, followed by trememdous, breath-catching relief, when the correct answer was given by another — and it was NOT the one that I’d been dying to give.  Caught in the not-right-ness is, we must admit, much worse than being not-right in anonymity. (And eventually, of course, we must get to the bottom of even that).

It’s a new year.  Hmm….might there be any abbe-thoughts that I’ve deemed absolutely RIGHT that might need to become a little more quiet…so that I would be able to hear wonder threatening at any moment to stop me in my tracks??

If you’re wondering about the rest of the story, you can find it online.  Oh.  And happy new year.



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