At one point of time, in awe of majestic cosmic questions, I scoffed at the mundane everyday world of easy familiarity, routines, and relationships. How, I wondered, could the trivial details of human existence and its everyday mechanics be even of the tiniest significance faced with the sheer impersonal vastness of the physical universe? It is a testament to my journey, since then, in experience and time, that these very same cosmic questions now seem of value to me only in their capacity to endow us with visions of the everyday, workaday lives of men and women striving to make sense of them. The actors in these visions are less eccentric geniuses with noses set permanently at an angle to the world than insatiably curious and meticulous people with worldly concerns, routines, relationships, and an easy familiarity with the mundane and the domestic. Easy Familiarity–is there another English phrase so loaded with meaning, yet so humane in its connotations?
Evidence of this cosmic shift in perspective is strewn all over my imaginative mindscape: In the subject matter of the non-fiction that I read. In the themes and recurring motifs of the fiction that I crave. In the movies that I watch and what I choose to see in the movies that I watch: In the past I obsessed over the impersonal questions and concerns of relativity, quantum physics, and cosmology. Now it is the philosophical implications of the theory of evolution and questions of human nature and free-will that interest me. In the past I was drawn, first to mythic fantasies and science fiction, and later to the cerebral playfulness of postmodern fiction. Now I am attracted to the human and domestic concerns of James Salter, John Updike, and Richard Ford, and the incandescence that they bring to the most mundane and intimate of human moments. (“…to give the mundane its beautiful due” as Updike put it in the foreword to his sumptuous collection of early short stories The Early Stories.) I find John Crowley’s reconciliation of the fantastic and the domestic in Little, Big a far greater achievement than Tolkien’s The Lord of the Rings. It now means a lot to me, and greatly appeals to my present state of mind, that Ingmar Bergman was as obsessed with the question, “How can man and woman live together?,” and its variant, “How can man and woman live in a loveless marriage?,” as with his great obsession, “How can humans live in a godless world?”
A Note on Blog Post Titles: I have reworked the blog categories so that they are more specific and useful than the generic, baggy, and unwieldy ones that were available until now. Each blog post will, from now on, be tagged to a set of categories and contain a category description prefixed to its title.