I have long been a fan of Louise Penny’s work. Her Inspector Gamache series is well worth reading. It’s hard to put into words what it is I find so compelling about her writing. There’s the normal, reviewer-type comments; her plot and pacing are stellar, her character development complex and nuanced. But it’s not just those things that draw me to her writing. I think it’s her unflinching view of evil and hate. She’s unafraid to look into the chasm of our deepest selves and see the unvarnished truth of what we all feel, if we dare to look.
Yet, her writing isn’t dark. And and that is the wonder of it. She sees the great terribleness we are capable of, and yet she focuses on our ability to see goodness, to act kindly, despite all of that.
In her own words, her body of work is “inspired by two lines from a poem by WH Auden, in his elegy to Melville. Goodness existed, that was the new knowledge/his terror had to blow itself quite out to let him see it. How powerful is that?”
How often do we only see the hate, the fear, the violence, that we are capable of. Just look at the news. (Which I have stopped watching). At the end they tack on a feel good, inspirational story so that we all aren’t suicidal at the end of the each broadcast.
Violence is an easy answer. Goodness is hard. Doing the right thing, is often hard. It’s usually thankless, often unremarked upon.
This brings to mind a line from a wonderful Shakespearean sonnet, ““How with such rage can beauty hold a plea / Whose action is no stronger than a flower.” But that is the miracle, that beauty, that goodness, as fragile as it seems, is not. It triumphs over evil in small ways and large.
It takes someone unusual, someone inspired, someone inspirational to see it. To see the goodness through the hate and take note. It takes someone with vision to transform that ability into something that can inspire us collectively.
Goodness exists. Everyday I try and live that. I’ve seen so much hate and fear. So I know, in my soul, just how hard living this can be. Often, I fail. Everyday, I fail. I speak critically, or thoughtlessly to someone. I let my temper get the better of me. I let impatience with my personal burdens overwhelm my hard won joy. And yet, every morning, I refocus.
Goodness exists. And I get another chance to try to be better, kinder, more understanding, more patient. Goodness exists. Everyday, every moment. It just takes courage to open your heart and let yourself see it.
Shakespeare, William. Sonnet 65: Since Brass, Nor Stone, Nor Earth, Nor Boundless Sea.