Sunday, June 23, 2013

Being Obscure

Reading (savoring!) Mary Ruefle's astonishing Madness, Rack, and Honey this morning (don't miss this book -- it's glorious), I discovered the following in the essay "I Remember, I Remember," a passage whose thought may lie nicely alongside my Honorable Obscurity Handbook:
"I remember that I did not always know authors were ordinary people leading ordinary lives, and that an ordinary life was an obscure life, if we can extend the meaning of obscure to mean covered up by dailiness, glorious dailiness, shameful dailiness, dailiness that is difficult to figure out, that is not always clear until a long time afterward. Obscure: not readily noticed, easily understood, or clearly expressed. Which is a pretty good definition of life." (p.242)
The question at the heart of The Honorable Obscurity Handbook, the question the book puts to its readers or prospective readers, is: Are you honorably obscure? At first this sounds like a provocation, a challenge; i.e., Are you above it all? And that is, of course, part of the meaning. But more importantly, "Are you honorably obscure?" is meant as an invitation, a gesture of welcome, four words preceding an embrace.

"Are you honorably obscure?"

The question bears inside it, implicitly, the inclusive affirmative: You probably are, because, after all, most of us are.