Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Past the Guards

I wrote last about an Ursula Le Guin book, Orsinian Tales. I’d like to elaborate on what made the stories in that book meaningful to me and, hopefully, open it up for others to relate.

The first story in the book is called The Fountains. Le Guin introduces us to a day in the life of a scientist from a politically oppressed country. He is in France for a summit or conference or some such thing, but he is accompanied by “students” or “bodyguards” whose hidden purpose is to ensure that he does not stray from the approved purpose of his trip. The character, Adam, is enraptured by the sights of the city, the gardens, and the fountains. He is moved by the beauty around him and he unintentionally leaves the company of the bodyguards who are with him.

I love how Le Guin describes it, she says “it was at this moment, though he was unaware of it, that he defected.”

She describes him walking around the city, enjoying the moments of peace and freedom. She describes him becoming conscious of his defection, of his freedom, and announcing it to strangers around him. Adam takes his freedom, as if it is something stolen from a counter, and hides it under his coat. He walks throughout Paris with it. He does not go to any embassy or refuge, but decides to return to his countrymen. He has experienced freedom at the fountains in Paris, “…what turned him to his own land was mere fidelity. For what else should move a man these days? Kingly he strode past the secret-police agent in the hotel lobby, hiding under his coat the stolen, inexhaustible fountains.”

I love the imagery of the oppressed man choosing the physical captivity because he knows that his soul is free. I love the idea that an experience can give someone the inner strength to bear up under oppression. I love the idea of sneaking freedom into the prison under his coat.


This leads me to my question:
What do you sneak past the guards?
What experience or idea do you hold dear; an experience or idea that helps you deal with the drudgery, frustrations, or hardships in your life?
What do you cling to that allows you to endure?

What have you snuck past the guards?

3 comments:

anne johns said...

I agree with you, that's some good imagery. I love the fountains hidden under the coat. I think I view academia as my prison. I hate being controlled by schedule, dead lines, and unoptional texts. I like to learn, but on my own terms. The only thing bringing me back to school after a month of rest is the promise of community. Freedom is sweet, but freedom in isolation isn’t as freeing as you’d think. [Christian] community enables me. This also ties into my response to your last post. Deep conversations make me feel alive—and that’s an integral part of community.

Elfland Ethics said...

so you sneak your friends and your love for them in past the soul-sucking structure and rigidity of IWU?
I like that.
I don't know if i'd say "academia" though, it seems that you don't like institutional structure. you can be an academic and learn/write about what you want. you just have to be really good, or really rich (i'm neither, so I'm guessing).

anne johns said...

that is true, good point. also, seeing school as the means to an end gets me through, but that's not inspiring. ;)

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