I've been thinking about fact and hope--how, without fact, we're lost, without the gravity of the real: the real of a stone in your shoe. And how, without hope, we're lost because of the real. How, without the real, we've nothing to lean against in the morning  so we can tie our shoes. How, without hope, what's the use of shoes?

There is this...dance between fact and hope. "Fact" comes from a Latin verb, facere, which means "to make, to do." A fact is that which is made, something that's done, achieved, right there--that tree, these fingers, the thing that actually happened. The subtleties of epistemology don't count here--how can we trust our senses, the unreliability of the "eye witness." I'm talking about the sense we call "common," the feel of the concrete under our sole. What we call the "facts of life"--the nail in the oak.  And then hope, the world that fact creates, the world around fact, the shadow that fact throws. Without hope, fact is incomplete, partial--which is the point of Wendy's sewing Peter's shadow to his heels, the comic irony being that by doing so the fantasy becomes real--but that's surely one of the fundamental tasks of literature--to create wheels within wheels to suggest the universe.

The "feathered thing" that Emily Dickinson came up with must have a "perch." That perch she calls the "soul." So always in our and in imagined worlds--whose function is to mirror the artist's best intuition about our experience--the fact must have its shadow.


 


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