67.4 F

Davis, California

Wednesday, April 17, 2024

Illusions and allusions

Among all the random bits of profundity and nonsense I wrote in my column last week was a quote about truth (one I wish I could take credit for, but no, the deacon of my parish is responsible). It said, Truth is not because it happened but because it is a story we share we know to be true. I believe fiction novels, particularly the good ones, to be exemplary of this statement. The stories found in novels never happened, yet they echo throughout history on intrapersonal and global scales.

Once we are taught about them in our English and literature classes, recurring images and themes begin to catch our attention. These recurring ideas are meant to clue in the reader and indicate either the current or impending states of affairs.

As a reader and a writer (insofar as I can call myself a writer), at times I can’t help but see myself as a character in the novel that is my life. No doubt, conscious of it or not, others do the same, especially the dreamers. The reason I say this is to ask, what if novels were a bit closer to life thanwe first thought?

Let me tell you about what my life has been like for the past few days, beginning with Sunday. I sat in church and listened to the deacon read and give a homily on the story of Jesus raising Lazarus from the dead.

It is perhaps my favorite story in the Bible. If you haven’t read it because of religious beliefs, at least read it for its literary merit.

In short, Lazarus, who has been dead for four days, is raised back to life at Jesus’ words, Lazarus, come out! Lazarus, still wrapped and blindfolded with burial cloth, then hobbles out of the tomb which had been sculpted and dug out of the earth.

I returned to Davis later Sunday and stayed up all night writing a philosophy paper due the next day. At any given time of the night, you could see me in my room with just a few books and a laptop reading or pounding away at the keys.

As morning came, I finished and went to class. Then, in the class where I had turned in my paper, Professor Mattey began to lecture on Dostoyevsky’s novel, Notes from the Undergound. It is a book about, if I may quote the description on its back, A nameless hero… a profoundly alienated individual who spitefully questions himself, which in some way is a bleak search for truth.

Later Monday, after I had finished class, I returned to my apartment, entered back into my room, drew the shades and went to sleep until it was about nightfall. I awoke only to stay up all night in the same manner as the last to write yet another paper, again due the next day.

In class the next day, the one where I was to turn in my paper, the lecture was about Plato’s cave analogy, found in his work, The Republic. The analogy is between the cave and our sensory perception in discovering the forms. To sum up quickly, some cave dwellers only know of the world around them by the shadows before them on the wall, until they turn around and are enlightened.

What is readily obvious about my last few days are the recurring images of dark, confined spaces, the inability to see, isolation and being cut off from the world and the boundless sky. If I started hearing a narrator like Will Ferrell as Harold Crick, then I would have something to talk about.

In English literature, I guess these are pretty dismal images pointing to themes of death, confusion, depression, enslavement and just an overall miserable state of affairs.

I wonder if that’s what it means to read the signs of the times.

Anyway, there is one thing about life that separates it from literature: Its ending hasn’t been written yet. Like Lazarus, we are called out, but we leave the tomb under our own [God-given] power.

So if your story sounds at all similar to mine, especially with the last bit of term papers and midterms and finals rapidly approaching, it may be time to shake off the onset of atrophy – whether it be of the mind or of the soul – and take a step outside. The weather is great.


JEREMY MALLETT seriously needs potassium and to be outside more because just after a walk to campus, his legs felt like they were going to cramp up. If there’s a way, send your bananas to him via e-mail at jjmallett@ucdavis.edu.


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