Pretending that I was Binx Bolling from Walker Percy’s The Moviegoer, I made glowing use of a few days off and took an extended weekend in conjunction with my birthday. A good deal of my time was spent driving, as I drove to and then cruised along the Gulf Coast, trying to inhale as much of the coastal air as I could, harboring the illusion that I had a life in which I could watch the sun set over the beach every day. While on the coast, I picked up a copy of Giacomo Leopardi’s Operette Morali (translated: Essays and Dialogues). Leopardi was a pessimist in the fullest sense of the word. In fact, his writings were considered so dangerous–for they are so damn full of despair–that the Church put Operette on the index of forbidden books. Given that Catholics can now read whatever they want for we are all now spiritually mature in our literary discernment, I placed in my hands a once forbidden book and scurried out of the bookstore. Also, Leopardi makes for fantastic beach reading.
Also: makes for fantastic IHOP reading. Reading the “Introduction” in IHOP on my journey back this morning, I was particularly struck by the translator/editor Giovanni Cecchetti’s remarks concerning Leopardi’s stance: At the center of Leopardi’s meditations and writings lies an incessant dialectical struggle between illusion and reality…a world in which, from one day to the next, man hopes for fulfillment, for a happiness that will come in the future, when present dreams are finally realized. But then reality unfailingly reveals itself as inferior to all hopes and expectations. Thus the only good moments are those in which man imagines happiness to come. The only desirable and acceptable part of life is early youth, when man dreams without any knowledge of reality; and the only desirable part of the day is the morning–the day being the concentrated image of life.
Much of the weekend was spent in hopefulness and expectation. The expectation was only heightened by the gradations of pink and orange hues that flooded the skies as the sun set over the waters and as the trout (?) jumped (playfully?), as if they coveted a better, out-of-water glance at the sunset. However, the concluding reality…
I drove home under skies that reflected the cloudy dismalness of my mind, much like if we had consulted each other this morning about what to wear. Did I expect too much too soon or too presumptively? Or. Or, maybe, just maybe, I acted only like one who must live mostly in “pre-game” illusions because the game itself never goes the way one wants. Or, if it does, it never goes the way one imagines.