14 March 2007

The finite within the infinite

Nabokov, Speak, Memory:
Whenever I start thinking of my love for a person, I am in the habit of immediately drawing radii from my love--from my heart, from the tender nucleus of a personal matter--to monstrously remote points of the universe. Something impels me to measure the consciousness of my love against such unimaginable and incalculable things as the behavior of nebulae (whose very remoteness seems a form of insanity), the dreadful pitfalls of eternity, the unknowledgeable beyond the unknown, the helplessness, the cold, the sickening involutions and interpenetrations of space and time. It is a pernicious habit, but I can do nothing about it. [...] I have to make a rapid inventory of the universe, just as a man in a dream tries to condone the absurdity of his position by making sure he is dreaming. I have to have all space and all time participate in my emotion, in my mortal love, so that the edge of its mortality is taken off, thus helping me to fight the utter degradation, ridicule, and horror of having developed an infinity of sensation and thought within a finite existence.
I was going to add some sort of personal comment to this passage, but rapidly realized there was nothing to say. Even in posting it, I feel as though I'm intruding on something sacred (which it is), and still marvel that I held these words in my hands at all.

Love etches itself into our skin, then down into the bone. We smell a fragrance in a recently-entered room and after a decent period, adjust. It no longer stands out, calls the attention. It becomes a part of us even as we begin to forget it's there. We know we need all the help we can get to help us see what's right in front of our faces.

And so we read.

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