“Well obviously if your entire concern is for saving things in life, items of thought or description that seem to be otherwise perishing, and that is the propelling force behind your constantly writing up these valuable paragraphs–then your entire opus must fall under a similar mandate; or your whole existence is twice a tragedy.”
“Yes,” I had to agree, “a double tragedy, or an utter farce; for I saved in my expressions a world, and then the larger world, the uncaring and ignorant world, didn’t save what I had saved and expressed–of the world. Even if only an aspect of the world, I put my life into saving it.’
“However, if your work finally is saved, then it will be a consummate miracle! All the original items will be, as it were twice saved. The first time, when you wrote them, and the second time, when . . . readers make them historical, or whatever has to happen formally to make sure they are actually and finally saved. Whew, that’s a hard second part of the equation, isn’t it?”
“Yes, and also, to make a caveat, this does not address the fact that inevitably what I saved was changed, even partially created, in the act of saving it. Not just because it was put into words; but in fact it had it’s first material existence in words, perhaps–if my language is true its literal poetic aim. No, it doesn’t address that, but I obviously understood that from the beginning. In fact, I was thrilled by it. In fact it was the fragile nature of the things I was saving that informed me, often surreptitiously, that they could be lost–utterly, unless action was taken. Perhaps I use the word surreptitiously in the opposite sense you might expect. But still, my writing is done in the spirit of saving things, saving reality!, that must always be kept in mind, that it was never just clay, and I was not just some egomaniac artist wanting to make anything at all, I was not just constructing castles in the air–no, I mean yes, it was fragile and real, it was like . . . flower petals.”
“Though neither, as you said, was it material to be treated as if it were a preservation project, like flowers under glass. It was neither of those operations you performed in your writing, Theopilus,” said my kind visitor, addressing me by one of my old pseudonyms.
“Yeah, well maybe all I have done is gather everything together in one place, described the world from one point of view, and put it in a series of uniform volumes, or one file on a computer–so the whole shebang can be totally done away with, erased in one shot,” I said. And for some reason, I vividly recalled that square glass jar of crushed flower petals, in the library on the baby grand piano, in the country house we lived in, a lifetime ago in Vermont. They were roses.