as life and death, are they not
I ran across this bit of prose in my reading last night.
It is from a C.S. Forester novel titled, ‘The Ship.“
At the moment in question, the Captain of HMS Artemis has given the orders that will take the ship into action against an enemy fleet of much greater strength.
The Captain reflects for a moment.
“The Captain experienced a feeling of elation that was extraordinarly pleasant.
He was a man who was profoundly interested in the art of living.
Rembrandt gave him pleasure,
so did the Fifth Symphony;
so did bouillabaisse at Marseilles or southern cooking at New Orleans or a properly served Yorkshire pudding in the north of England;
so did a pretty girl or an elegant woman;
so did a successful winning hazard from a difficult position at billiards, or a Vienna coup at bridge;
and so did success in battle.
These were things that gilded the bitter pill of life which everyone had to swallow.
They were important as life and death;
not because they were very important, but because life and death were not very important.”
The pill of life is pretty bitter right now.
My wife asks over and over again, “How are people …”
Utility bills are suspended.
Rent payments held up.
Long long long lines at food banks.
Not much gilding to the bitter pill for too many people.
I can’t do much about that.
I am profoundly interested in the art of living.
I can do much about what I might find extraordinarily pleasant.
Are these things important?
Are they important as life or death?
Quoting Captain Augustus McCrae of the Texas Rangers, “It ain’t dying I’m talking about, it’s living.”