A Room Without a View

I began today– the days have been very slow here for us; the process is going very smoothly for the people in this small town and so they don’t need us that much right now. But who knows what tomorrow or this weekend will look like? Running a disaster recovery is a bit of a disaster.

But I degress. Today’s slowness has afforded me time to get some music for my ukulele. I got several songs, chords and lyrics to practice and try to play. I haven’t played it much because I am a failure at tuning by ear, but I shall try to use the tuning website– ‘the seventh string’ or something like that– and though I am not a very good player, there is something very calming about practicing.

I degress again. One of the songs I got was ‘In Love With a View’ by Mojave 3. I’m not overfond of the artist, but I love the song. Writing it down made me want to listen to it and listening to it (on my iPod, Sunshine) made me want to read ‘A Room With a View,’ which is fantastically available for free reading or download from Project Gutenberg (www.gutenberg.org), an online library of thousand of post-copyright works.

So I spent the rest of my free time today reading the book. ‘A Room With a View’ is a novel written in 1909 by the amazing author, E. M. Forster. He only wrote five or so books, all of them incredible, though some ended in tragedy. He lived in India, and in Persia (or Turkey?), set two of his books at least partially in Italy, and was gay, which wasn’t easy in 1900’s England, back when men were jailed for sodemy. Oscar Wilde, for one, was in jail for gayness for a while and died a few years later, according to an account I once read of him, of lonliness. Besides the legal implications, men were taught that homosexuality was immoral and sinful and unpatriotic. He encapsulates his experience as a gay Victorian English man wonderfully in his post-humusly published novel ‘Maurice’.

I degress again. ‘A Room With a View’  is spectacular. The writing is amazing, but even more the characterization is amazing. It was written over a hundred years ago and yet it is incredibly identifiable. The main character is dealing with a coming to consciousness– her attempts to do what everyone wants her to do fail when she falls in love with the wrong person and only when someone else tells her that she needs the love more than she needs to be what everyone wants does she admit it. How understandable that is; we are such herd animals, following others about, looking to them for advice, for understanding, for company, and for identity. And that is not wrong. Forster doesn’t suggest that we should abandon all human things; he mocks one of the characters for claiming egalitarianism but turning his nose up at common people. What he criticizes is allowing ourselves to follow others instead of following our own hearts.

I have never been one for following the herd, not out of some criticizm of it, or some ideal of being an individual, but out of a sheer incapactity to understand what other people were doing. Fitting in has never been my forte and now I feel blest at that, not because I scorn those who do follow the norm, but because I have tried and failed and now can see that I was not formed for it, if I was formed by anything but random chance. I scorn no one; they all have their place in this world. But finding mine seems to have been a little harder.

And so I sympathize with the protaginist, Lucy. She acted as a tennis ball, hit back and forth between the various factors in her life; when she chose it was only by whim or what others would think.

In movies and books, people often come to epipanies; they’re the turning point of the story; suddenly the main character realizes something and after that nothing is the same. In reality, our minds are like stone; they must be, slowly, worn away. The eternal action of a river of change is what created new valleys, not usually sudden dramatic moments. It is a lot harder, a lot more boring. But how often have you had an epiphany and the next day everything in your life continues to be exactly the same?

I don’t expect this to be the last of them. Like so many other things in my life, change comes slowly. I changed my diet slowly; I cannot recognize how it was before, but it didn’t happen all of a sudden. So will I change my ideas about my life. It is easy to sink into normal dreams; career, husband, children, house. But I can see the despair that lies in that for me. The despair I feel right now about not being with my community– Alex and Mirra are, for now, my little community– is the despair of not being where I am supposed to be.

‘A room with a view,’ in the book, ends up being a place you can move in and a place you can’t see out of. The incapactity to change or to realize. The wrong choice is a room without a view. For most people my life would be completely wrong. For me, doing what I’m doing, right now, is.

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