"Isn't that perhaps the reason?"
"For their great influence; that they make themselves so rare."
He coloured a little, stared at her--and suddenly felt the penetration of the remark. At a stroke she had pricked the van der Luydens and they collapsed. He laughed, and sacrificed them."
Before I move on to the meatier matters of this post, let's just pause a moment and savor Wharton a bit. Check out the verbage in that last phrase: pricked, collapsed, laughed, sacrificed. Well done, Edith. It is writers like Wharton that remind me how beautiful a well placed word can be. Can't you see the image of the quietly ill van der Luydens crumbling under the sudden poke of Ellen's sincerity, and then Newland's laughter burying them completely? Take your twinkly vampires and dystopian killing fields. . . I'll keep Wharton in my pocket.
I don't always read the high minded stuff. I've been known to google "Sean and Catherine" a few times (a day). Don't judge. In fact, you should be refreshed by my honesty.
That is what this post is all about.
So, why the Robert Frost picture allusion in the beginning? Because, in this conversation, this candid moment, Ellen and May diverge in a wood. A candid path marked by raw emotion is laid out for Newland--a path certainly less travelled in his world.
And when he laughs, he joins her, if only for a moment.
She will not always say the perfect thing--this dialogue makes that clear. In a moment, reverenced society is shaken and we see hints of an enchanting sincerity that might prove dangerous.
Is sincerity dangerous?
In an odd cosmic turn of events, two other blogs, with no advance collaboration, wrote on similar veins of the value of rough and tumble honesty. One pondered the value of mothering honesty amidst the onslaught of perfected pinterest ponderings and gushing mommy blogs. I think her one of the most doting and fabulous mothers ever. I sometimes feel guilty for not adoring my children enough. I am too good at seeing their humanity I fear.
The other is a blog I've long admired for her balance of goodness wtih a healthy side of edge. Both of these women are far funnier than I am, so I'll wait here while you poke around a bit.
Are you back?
What we all three have in common with Madame Olenska is this: Honesty is undervalued. Here she is stuck in a world that has no appreciation for the hellish marriage she'd been enduring in Europe for the last several years. She is forced to tiptoe through the rites of passage all over again, playing the game that has done nothing but hurt her. But alone, by her fireside, she enjoys a burst of clarity. And, ah that clarity is refreshing.
Facebook has perpetuated this lack of clarity. If I were to judge myself in comparison to the majority of other people's posts--I would feel monumentally lame. They adore their children. They love where they are. Their husbands dote on them. Or, they are so productive and busy that they can't keep up with things because they simply have so much wonderful stuff going on in their multi-tasking amazingly talented overcommitted universe. Or thereabouts.
I think there is also a badge of honor we like to hold out for even our imperfection. We wish we could have more time to ______, we pine, but we just have too much going on. If I really have that much going on--why am I on Facebook? I'll tell you why, because it is an easy way to feel validated and pathetic all at once. I think we assume that everyone else is being sincere, when really many dance to the same tune as Newland's society. Once in awhile there is a blog or a post or a status that pricks and collapses.
And then we laugh. We laugh because it feels so good not to be the only human in the room. I think that is why Newland laughed at Ellen. And that is why I am going to try much harder to laugh at myself. Because I am flawed. I am human. I am a flawed, flabby, time-wasting, human that sometimes watches lame movies, eats marshmallows out of the bag, and
lets encourages my kids to watch something on a screen so I can get a blasted nap.
There, I said it.
Did you laugh?