Sunday, October 30, 2011

Murakami's egg

Because, as you know from prior post, I've been a little bit obsessed with The Murakami lately and been reading about him, immersing myself and preparing to read 1Q84, I wanted to re-post this bit from a speech he gave in Jerusalem in February 2009, where he'd travelled to accept a prize as part of the Jerusalem International Book Fair.

Probably what I love about this piece, about his analogy, is that it loops me back to Dostoevsky.  It puts me right back into my undergraduate and graduate studies of Russian literature, to missing bus stops because I was so gone, fathoms under the surface in the very deep end of the great Dostoevsky and The Brothers Karamazov.  There's great pleasure in being inside this referential loop, feeding back upon itself, hearing the echoes bouncing back and forward again.

The specific Dostoevsky quote I'm thinking of has to do with his own faith, with suffering, with truth, with Jesus actually.  No matter my own opinions about religion, this has always resonated so powerfully for me.

I will tell you that I am a child of the century, a child of disbelief and doubt. I will remain so until the grave. How much terrible torture this thirst for faith has cost me and costs me even now which is all the stronger in my soul the more arguments I can find against it. And yet God sends me sometimes instants when I am completely calm. At those instants I love and feel loved by others and it is at those instants that I have shaped for myself a Credo where everything is clear and sacred to me. This credo is very simple. Here it is: To believe that nothing is more beautiful, profound, sympathetic, reasonable, manly, and perfect than Christ. And I tell myself with a jealous love that not only is there nothing more but there can be nothing more. Even more, if someone proved to me that Christ is outside the truth and that in reality the truth were outside of Christ, then I should prefer to remain with Christ rather than with the truth.
What I found moving about this, and still find moving, is this notion of having a sense of what is right and true and precious that cannot be shaken by any external definition of what is right and true and precious.  For Dostoevsky, it's Jesus. If loving him is wrong, he doesn't want to be right.

For Murakami, it's the egg.
Please do allow me to deliver one very personal message.
It is something that I always keep in mind while I am writing fiction. I have never gone so far as to write it on a piece of paper and paste it to the wall: rather, it is carved into the wall of my mind, and it goes something like this: "Between a high, solid wall and an egg that breaks against it, I will always stand on the side of the egg." Yes, no matter how right the wall may be and how wrong the egg, I will stand with the egg. Someone else will have to decide what is right and what is wrong; perhaps time or history will decide. If there were a novelist who, for whatever reason, wrote works standing with the wall, of what value would such works be?
 What is the meaning of this metaphor?
In some cases, it is all too simple and clear. Bombers and tanks and rockets and white phosphorus shells are that high, solid wall. The eggs are the unarmed civilians who are crushed and burned and shot by them. This is not all, though. It carries a deeper meaning. Think of it this way. Each of us is, more or less, an egg. Each of us is a unique, irreplaceable soul enclosed in a fragile shell. This is true of me, and it is true of each of you. And each of us, to a greater or lesser degree, is confronting a high, solid wall. The wall has a name: it is "the System." The System is supposed to protect us, but sometimes it takes on a life of its own, and then it begins to kill us and cause us to kill others — coldly, efficiently, systematically.

I like this idea of being on the side of the egg, of being the egg (the incredible, edible egg).  It's so much more palatable (ha ha ha), so much more current, naturally, than Dostoevsky's Jesus, although I really do think they're saying exactly the same thing.

And with all of this Occupying that's taking place right now, the egg and the wall are part of our daily awareness, part of our daily dialogue.

Some people can be with Jesus.  Me, I'm with Murakami and his egg.  You?

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