Charles Hood’s photo essay on how places, when we travel, are “supposed” to look (as opposed to how they actually do look) put me in mind of the following Christina Rossetti poem meditating upon the inharmonies of existence. It appears to be addressed to a dead infant and is titled “Dirge”:
Why were you born when the snow was falling?
You should have come to the cuckoo’s calling.
Or when grapes are green in the cluster,
Or, at least, when lithe swallows muster
For their far off flying
From summer dying.
Why did you die when the lambs were cropping?
You should have died at the apple’s dropping,
When the grasshopper comes to trouble,
And the wheat-fields are sodden stubble,
And all winds go sighing
For sweet things dying.
When Charles Hood took this photograph in Poland of an Old World-looking accordion player, does the Toyota Camry behind him pollute the scene?
Narrative and scenic pollution are also interesting in terms of politics and religion. For example, in the recent shooting of a congresswoman by Jared Loughner, liberals have been looking for a smooth narrative linking Sarah Palin’s gun rhetoric to Loughner’s gun behavior, but reality is almost always more complicated than our first easy or superficial linkages. Likewise, when conservatives try to link up President Obama with socialism, reality intrudes and makes the President more ideologically complicated than that.
And with regard to religion, contemporary theists who posit God as supremely good and all powerful have to pass through the untidy fact that, if God exists, (S)he let the Holocaust occur.
We’re all looking for clean narratives, aren’t we? And everywhere the world presents us with things that don’t fit. Then what do we do?