September 13: Forsaking all others

I suspect this man of not actually being a Pilgrim.

This will be a short post, although not for lack of liking Pilgrim's Progress, which we get the beginning of today.

One of the admirable things about Pilgrim's Progress -- in addition to the fact that one of the many synonyms Bunyan is obliged to use for misery is spelled "Wo" -- is that Bunyan isn't one of those writers who screws around telling us what the weather is the day before our action starts, and what effect it had on the landscape. No, by the end of the first paragraph, we are already into our dilemma:
AS I walk’d through the wilderness of this world, I lighted on a certain place where was a Den, and I laid me down in that place to sleep; and as I slept, I dreamed a Dream. I dreamed, and behold I saw a Man cloathed with Rags, standing in a certain place, with his face from his own house, a Book in his hand, and a great Burden upon his back. I looked, and saw him open the Book, and read therein; and as he read, he wept and trembled; and not being able longer to contain, he brake out with a lamentable cry, saying What shall I do?
As I walked through the wilderness of this world. Already we have the real message of Pilgrim's Progress -- which isn't, "there's a wonderful goal at the end," but "you are extremely unlikely to reach it, because the world is filled with snares and sloughs and whatnot."

You know what's really a snare? Your goddamn family:
Now he had not run far from his own door, but his Wife and Children, perceiving it, began to cry after him to return; but the Man out his fingers in his ears, and ran on, crying Life! Life! Eternal Life! So he looked not behind him, but fled towards the middle of the Plain.
He says "Life! Life! Eternal Life!" but as far as the family's concerned, he might as well have said, "I'm just going to the store for some cigarettes." The effect is the same -- another single mom. Don't worry, folks -- they'll be okay! (Outside of their being damned, that is.)

As a family man myself that's what really sticks out for me today -- the admirable clarity of Christian's running out on his family. That and, as before, the super-beset unhappiness promised to everyone who's been saved -- an unhappiness so obvious that even Mr. Worldly Wiseman (of the firm of Wiseman, Secular, Heedless, and Papadakis) anticipates it: is not a more dangerous and troublesome way in the world than is that unto which he hath directed thee; and that thou shalt find, if thou wilt be ruled by his counsel. Thou hast met with something (as I perceive) already; for I see the dirt of the Slough of Dispond is upon thee; but that Slough is the beginning of the sorrows that do attend those that go on in that way: Hear me, I am older than thou; thou art like to meet with, in the way which thou goest, Wearisomeness, Painfulness, Hunger, Perils, Nakedness, Sword, Lions, Dragons, Darkness, and in a word, Death, and what not!
To which Christian says, "Why, Sir, this Burden upon my back is more terrible to me than are all these things which you have mentioned." You're screwed either way.

1 comment:

Lisa Simeone said...

The single worst educational experience in my life: reading "Pilgrim's Progress." I couldn't believe at the time that it was considered some kind of esteemed book -- truly, I was gobsmacked -- and I can't believe it's on the Harvard Classics list. Just painful. A total waste of time and intellect.

Then again, you've made something humorous out of it, so I guess it's not all bad.