...the letter killeth, but the spirit giveth life...

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

William Steig

          Dominic went out for a long walk and did a lot of thinking. He was still walking when the stars came out. Mournful, he lay down on the ground and looked at the stars. Life was mysterious. Bartholomew Badger had been alive long before there was a Dominic--long before anybody had even thought there would be such a dog. Two hours ago, Bartholomew Badger was still alive. But now he was gone. There was no Bartholomew Badger; there was only a memory. His turn was over. Dominic's turn was still at the beginning. There were many who hadn't yet even begun to exist, but there they would be, some time in the future, a whole new world of creatures, some important, some not, and many of them wondering about life just as Dominic was wondering now. It would be their turn, and then Dominic's turn would be over. Many of them would think about the past, which was now the present, but by then what was was now the future would have become the present.
          Somehow this kind of thinking made Dominic feel more religious than usual. He fell asleep under the vast dome of quivering stars, and just as he was falling asleep, passing over into the phase of dreams, he felt he understood the secret of life. But in the light of morning, when he woke up, his understanding of the secret had disappeared with the stars. The mystery was still there, inspiring his wonder.
         He returned to the house. He was not of a mind to eat breakfast. He was not in the mood. He went to the tool shed to get Mr. Badger's shovel, and he labored in the morning sun, digging a deep hole. He dug the hole under a tall oak tree, as old as Mr. Badger, in the front yard; and he buried the pig in the hole.
         Then he leaned on the shovel to rest, the wooden handle warm with his work. The moment he stopped being busy, he felt his heart quake. He had to cry. Life was suddenly too sad. And yet it was beautiful. The beauty was dimmed when the sadness welled up. And the beauty would be there again when the sadness went. So the beauty and the sadness belonged together somehow, though they were not the same at all.
- Dominic (1972)

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