Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Huck Finn, C'est Moi!

Yesterday my father said: "Sometimes I feel like what I'm going through isn't even my problem—like it's a problem that doesn't actually belong to me. But suddenly it is my problem, and now I've got to deal with it. Even though I don't know where it really came from, or who caused it. But it's got to be fixed, and I guess I'm the one who has to fix it."

Immediately I ran with the idea—I've been running with it since—because it reflects how I often feel about my own life; also, because it reflects my experience as a reader and the connection between literary characters and the world. Huck Finn's problems don't interest us because they're his problems but because he embodies a moment in time—post-Civil War America—and through him we contemplate the process by which we, as a nation, kind of grew up. The problems he negotiates weren't his but ours. It fell to him to try to sort them out, in his life.

So narrating myself into existence I become aware that my problems aren't so much mine but the world's, right now. And, as with Huck, it falls to me to live them out, with everyone else.

Part of the appeal of this idea, I suppose, is that it permits me to transfer the responsibility for the difficulties of my life to the larger world. But that falls in line, for the most part, with my politics and with my understanding of the relationship between myself and society.

Because let's be real: I don't exist. The we is the real I.

Frightening? Not really. Far less frightening than the deluded narcissism and, inevitably, the crushing loneliness of individualism.

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