wilderness inside walls

Time’s river flowed east, never to return, the sages taught. But there were so many ruins along the banks. Commanders rebelling, millions dead, dynasties falling. Armies as weapons against the state, the court, the emperor under heaven. Military leaders seizing the mandate of heaven for themselves. Chaos and savagery, wilderness inside walls. The heart crying for what the eye saw.

He wrote about a different kind of loss this time. The kind not crowned with the cake topper of a noble death. The going-on anyway, having had the chance to do what you were born to do and not taking it. The finding of meaning somewhere else instead. The making-do.

So damn good.

It is probably vain of me to think that you need to have arrived at a certain point in your life to prefer, or at least to value equally, a story crafted to allow this loss and not the grander ones, the finite endings. I would cause resentment in others the same way the professor who told me to wait to read Proust until I was in my forties, or the one who who told me I had to have had a child to get behind A Personal Matter, caused resentment in me.

Still, though. The making-do. We need its veneration as much as 12th-century military commanders. Even if only in quiet moments, sitting cross-legged on floors, having abandoned a planned run in favor of a final few pages, in a square of sunlight grown long on a prematurely golden afternoon.

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