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Field Flowers

June 10, 2019

By Louise Glück.

James Wood cited this poem in his review of This Life: Secular Faith and Spiritual Freedom by Martin Hägglund (New Yorker, May 20th, click here).

In that book Hägglund, a Swedish philosopher and literary theorist, suggests that even religious people don’t really want to live for eternity; limited time gives life value. He cites CS Lewis’s memoir A Grief Observed about his wife Joy Davidman.  Her deathbed words, “I am at peace with God”, were directed to the chaplain, not Lewis, who wrote, “She smiled, but not at me. Then she turned towards the eternal fountain.” Hägglund argues – he’s also a deconstructionist – that Lewis knew, “There is no CS Lewis for Joy Davidman in heaven and no Joy Davidman for CS Lewis”.  Our short lives are not just the only ones we will have, but the only ones we should want. He may be right.

Unfortunately, according to Wood’s review, Hägglund goes on to argue that this means we should follow all sorts of Marxist and anti-capitalist political nonsense.

Glück’s poem, narrated from the perspective of a flower, doesn’t make the same mistake.

Field Flowers

What are you saying?  That you want
eternal life?  Are your thoughts really
as compelling as all that?  Certainly
you don’t look at us, don’t listen to us,
on your skin
stain of sun, dust
of yellow buttercups: I’m talking
to you, you staring through
bars of high grass shaking
your little rattle – O
the soul!  The soul!  Is it enough
only to look inward?  Contempt
for humanity is one thing, but why
disdain the expansive
field, your gaze rising over the clear heads
of the wild buttercups into what?  Your poor
idea of heaven: absence
of change.  Better than earth?  How
would you know, who are neither
here nor there, standing in our midst?

Louise Glück.

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