Although in Vermont it’s a beautiful August right now, in winter the snow piles awfully darn high, and when I had little kids, we were often snow-bound for days. When I was pregnant with my second child, I read every bit of many New Yorker issues, all the way down to the ads. It was one long winter. In an essay years ago by James Wood, he wrote wondering who read his book reviews, and I wanted to answer: me! They’re my personal literature course.
It’s such a pleasure to get reading material in the mail. This issue of The New Yorker has an article about an isolated Amazonian tribe. It’s a story of two tribes with a shared history, and the two different paths they chose. One came nearly out of the forest, the other retreated more deeply within. It’s fascinating journalism, and a perfect metaphor for how profoundly we don’t understand those nearest to us.
This word compassion comes up over and over this summer in my life. What does a quality of heart mean? Perhaps compassion demands a measure of acceptance that we’ll never truly know another, that the immensity of jungle permeates much of human life.
It is easy enough to be friendly to one’s friends. But to befriend the one who regards himself as your enemy is the quintessence of true religion. The other is mere business.
– Mahatma Gandhi