Marching on to Zion

“Everyone’s complicated, when people seem simple and dull, it’s we who aren’t paying attention enough, it’s our stubborn inborn tendency to see other people as major or minor characters in our story.” John Jeremiah Sullivan, “Too Much Information.(http://www.gq.com/entertainment/books/201105/david-foster-wallace-the-pale-king-john-jeremiah-sullivan?printable=true)

In his review of David Foster Wallace”s upcoming posthumously published novel, The Pale King, Sullivan makes the point that DFW’s genius (and part of his pathos) was his almost obsessive practice of observing the details and inner logic of the behavior of the seemingly mundane and simple people around him. DFW understood, I think, that the human individual is the only thing of true worth, the only genuine thing in a world of media input and societal distractions which prima facie seem significant but, when considered, turn out to be false idols which demand attention but do not fill and nurture, or revive those who would turn their gaze to them.

No discussion of DFW’s life and work can be held without the omnipresent specter of his tragic suicide hanging in the background. And that is true also with this one: for all of his love for the small details of life, his voracious interest in all aspects of the human experience and his almost sacerdotal appreciation for the least of us, Wallace did not consider (was not able to consider) his own life to be worth preserving.

As a Christian, I see an example for myself in Wallace’s commitment to the individual, not as players in his life but as co-participants in the march of life. Although Wallace would not put it this way, I see that when we are unified as the Bride of Christ, we will be one, not many. The me will be subsumed in the you and it all will be bound up with the Christ. (Colossians 1:15-17).

As in all aspects of the Christian life, I fall tremendously short of this Christlike ideal. (In fact, the ability to articulate just what exactly I’m falling so short of adds a special twinge to the guilt that I feel — I can talk about it all day but then turn around at the end of the day and deny Him again.)

Psalm 103:12 again, I suppose. Over and over again…

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