To deny that there was this dark side of life would be like pretending that the cold of winter was somehow only a temporary illusion, a way station on the way to the higher "reality" of long, warm, pleasant summers. But summer, it turned out, was no more real than the snow that melted in wintertime.
I say this because as an older man I am prone to ponder matters in the light of death in a way that you are not. I am like a traveler from Mars who looks down in astonishment at what passes here. And what I see is the same human frailty passed from generation to generation. What I see is again and again the same sad human frailty. We hate one another; we are the victims of irrational fears. And there is nothing in the stream of human history to suggest we are going to change this. But-I digress, confess that. I merely wish to point out that in the face of such a world you have only yourselves to rely on. You have only the decision you must make, each of you, alone. And will you contribute to the indifferent forces that ceaselessly conspire toward injustice? Or will you stand up against this endless tide and in the face of it be truly human?
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The river of his youth had been diverted and poured out broadly across the land to seep through dirt to the roots of crops instead of running in its bed. The river was no longer a river, and the desert was no longer a desert. Nothing was as it had been. He knew what had happened to the sagelands. He himself had helped burn them. Then men like his father had seized the river without a trace of evil in their hearts, sure of themselves but ignorant, and children of their time entirely, with no other bearings to rely on. Irrigators and fruit-tree growers, they believed the river to be theirs. His own life spanned that time and this, and so he believed in the old fast river as much as he believed in apple orchards, and yet he saw that the two were at odds, the river defeated that apples might grow as far as Royal Slope. It made no more sense to love the river and at the same time kill it growing apples than it made sense to love small birds on the wing and shoot them over pointing dogs. But he'd come into the world in another time, a time immune to these contradictions and in the end he couldn't shake old ways any more than he could shake his name.
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When I think about John William now, I think about someone who followed through, and then I'm glad not to have followed through, to still be breathing, to still be here with people, to still be walking in the mountains, and to still be uncertain-even with all this cash on hand-in a way I seem to have no choice about. I'm a hypocrite, of course, and I live with that, but I live.
As soon as he was gone, we opened, "Baucis and Philemon." An elderly couple living in a cottage, they're granted a wish by Jove. They confer in private before Philemon asks, "May one hour take us both away; let neither outlive the other." The wish is granted. I said, "Simultaneous deaths? Why didn't they wish for eternal happiness instead? What else would anyone wish for?" "They did wish for that, " answered Jamie.
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He decided then that he would love her forever no matter what came to pass. It was not so much a matter of deciding as accepting the inevitability of it. It made him feel better, though he felt perturbed, too, worried that this kiss was wrong. But from his point of view, at fourteen years old, their love was entirely unavoidable. It had started on the day they'd clung to his glass box and kissed in the sea, and now it must go on forever. He felt certain of this.
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Well, I think it's extraordinarily fun to write, and I look forward to it every day, but that doesn't mean I think it's easy. There's a difference between the two. It's fun in the way all worthwhile things are fun "" there's difficulty attached to it. I think that a writer has to accept a certain amount of frustration. It's inherent in the task, and you have to simply persevere. It's part of the definition of the work.
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Writers shouldn't underestimate the difficulty of what they're doing, and they should treat it with great seriousness. You're doing something that really matters, you're telling stories that have an impact on other people and on the culture. You should tell the best stories you can possibly tell and put everything you've got into it.