I find myself listening to a lecture on Thoreau’s theory of perpetual grief. At his brother’s death, he seems to say that terminating grief is a short-cut we take, we want to ‘get over’ sorrow, yet that should not be an option, we are false to those we mourn if we get over mourning them. And he characterizes nature as capable of unending grief — is in unending grief — yet that is not a possibility for us. Now rather than fill out this striking view, expressed in an early letter to a friend, I want to juxtapose it with a quote our companion Ishmael has found:
“I am grateful for what I am & have. My thanksgiving is perpetual. It is surprising how contented one can be with nothing definite. …O how I laugh when I think of my vague and indefinite riches.” (HDT to H.G.O. Blake, Dec. 12, 1856)
This opens the question that has simmered off and on the last month in these conversations: how can consciousness (or the heart) both be full of joy and full of sadness? Does the heart have two chambers, one dark, one light, pumping alternately? Can the two chambers beat in unison, as it were, sad-happy, rather than now sad, now happy? We want to clear this up the way we clear up the tension between two propositions that contradict each other. But of course, we do have love-hate relations, and don’t think they’re as impermissible as thinking X is both a square and not a square. What is the logic of emotions? I just leave these questions sitting, for the moment, and share that ever-so-upbeat quote, Thoreau to Blake, and let the mists rise or fall as they will, for the moment.