H. gave me Ursala K. Le Guin’s “No Time To Spare: Thinking About What Matters,” the other day. We’d arrived in Nashville for a short holiday break together, so I put it in the small stack of books I’d planned to investigate during the time we were there. I was intrigued — I’d never read her before. LeGuin is primarily a science fiction and fantasy writer, and since I’m not particularly taken by either of those genres, I’d only come across her name.
I don’t know why he chose to buy it for me, he couldn’t remember, but I’m glad he did. It’s a collection of Le Guin’s blog posts, a forum in which she apparently finds freedom to air her concerns, thoughts, often very funny opinions, and obvious truths. Somewhere in the first 10 or 20 pages she off-handedly and elegantly suggests that the idea of economic stability co-existing with economic growth is laughable. That you can’t have both. We have a saying in my family for overlooking something that’s right under your nose. “Well, I’m glad it wasn’t a snake ’cause it would’ve bitten me.” I don’t know about y’all, but I love almost nothing more than someone showing me something that I was missing for whatever reason. Even though I’m often embarrased by my obliviousness, it’s such a relief to finally see. In this case, something I’ve heard on the news or read in the paper all of my life, and something that I accepted as a real possibility because the words were familiar, changed. I silently thanked heaven for the ability to read and remembered that’s why I do it. So that I can see a new way to think, so that my world opens up.
I then immediately applied the concept to personal matters. You can’t be stable and grow. You can’t stay the same and change. In this season of resolutions and declarations to improve, it strikes me why it’s so very hard for anyone to stick to consistent forward motion. We cling to what we know, and what we know is often the most comfortable thing. We want what feels safe, even if it’s not good for us, even if it keeps us stuck, even if it tamps down the spirit and ultimately makes us loathe ourselves for not risking happiness and fulfillment and instead taking the well-worn path that might not allow us our complete potential. I don’t happen to think the well-worn path is wrong for everyone. Somebody’s gotta stay at the house. But why are we sold a notion that compromise is spritual death and also told that adult life is, at bottom, about compromise? How can we live as if we’ll die today and also plan to live forever? The cake and the eating it too… (Le Guin also examines this saying later on in the book but that’s another topic…) Do we accept stability and growth as suitable partners because the language is familiar? Do they really go together? Can they?
I’m going to listen to “Always on a Mountain when I Fall,” and wonder why Merle thought climbing wouldn’t be a risk. I’ll just leave this right here.