Tuesday, March 31, 2009

My latest column ...

... The moment of knowing.


  1. Your elegantly written "moment of knowing" column affected me deeply. I do not frequently give much thought to my "moment" because I generally keep buried it away in my mind, keeping it bay by focusing instead on the demands of everyday life. You see, while your epiphany seems to have been positive, mine involved the death of my father when I was eighteen years old. I knew then--at the moment--and I knew at every moment afterward that I had changed, and, good or bad, which is yet to be determined, I had become the person I would remain for the rest of my years. Like you, I also see my hair thinning and graying, but I observe other signs of deterioration that do not bode well. When I think about the sum of my existence, when I have not otherwise buried the precise moment of knowing, I return to that June afternoon in 1964. Coincidentally, making the moment even more of an unavoidably real memory, I have been re-reading Flannery O'Connor's WISE BLOOD for my literature classes, and--as always--Hazel Motes' recollections of coffins and his family, and his attempts to escape the haunting Christ that lurks behind every tree force me back to my moment. The connections between O'Connor and your "moment of knowing" column are unsettling (in a very good and helpful way), and I now have to give it all much more thought.

  2. It is a testament to my fundamental shallowness that it never occurred to me that such a moment might occur under far less happy circumstances than mine did. Which, of course, would cast it in an entirely different light. But what you say is evidence of just how crucial great literature (O'Connor, not me) can be in making sense of life's mystery.

  3. Loved this piece, Frank.

    I’ve never had such a moment. (Or perhaps, I have yet to have such a moment.) My existence has seemed, to this point, frustratingly transitory. I can never get a handle on it — what is happening, or why, or what it might “mean” (even in the existential, to-be-defined-by-self sense). One moment seems to blur into the next, and if I try to take the time to reflect on anything past, the present just seems to puts its foot heavier on the gas.

    One moment does stick out more than others. I was 32, my first child, Sonja, was only about seven or eight months old, and my wife and I were having grave concerns about our dog, Max. Max, whom we’d saved from a shelter seven years prior, and loved and cared for and all that, had snapped at Sonja one afternoon; she had crawled across the living room floor and grabbed Max’s tail, and — in a split second, a blurry turnaround, with blood-tinged eyes, Max was showing her teeth against Sonja’s soft, pink face. Chills. So a couple of evenings later, my wife and I were out to dinner with a couple, friends of ours. And we told them this story, adding how thankful we were that nothing happened (i.e., that Sonja’s face was in-tact), and how concerned we were about the situation, etc. Our childless friends were saying, “Oh, sure, I can only imagine,” when I got up to walk to the bathroom. A moment later, in the airspace behind me, I heard one of them finally say, “Well, you know what you have to do.” And a moment after that, staring at myself in the bathroom mirror, a little drunk, I realized the gravity of those words. I DID know what we had to do. There was no question. We were going to put Max down. And I knew it, right there, in that moment, watching the expression change on my face as the realization came to me, both that I had to summon the resolve to do this, and that I would summon it — that the deed was as good as done, and that it was me that would do/had done it.

    I learned something about myself that day, but as always, I’m not sure what. But I have a feeling it means more than it seems.