Sunday, 22 May 2011

facing death, facing life

His father had always been a stranger, an irritable stranger with exceptional powers of intervention and comment, and an air of being disappointed about his offspring. It was shocking to lose him, it was like an unexpected hole in the universe, and the writing of “Death” upon the sky, but it did not tear Mr. Polly’s heartstrings at first so much as rouse him to a pitch of vivid attention.

(The History of Mr. Polly by H.G.Wells)


That amusing and warm hearted novel has a lot of wisdom in it. We face death by facing life otherwise it’s just a distracting mystery encompassed by either table turning or nihilism. As an old English labourer explained to me as I hacked ineffectually with my pick axe at the obdurate ground of Hertfordshire - ‘Pat, you’ve got to put a face on the work’. I won’t reduce that piece of instruction to its complete architectonic significance but the practical import of it is that you must first create a decent hole with a face that you can prise away into the void that you have created.