Two Fedoras

April 3, 2012 § Leave a comment

Author Madeleine L’Engle once awed to herself at the fact that,  “[People have] dreams and inner conversations which [are] just as real as mine and which [do] not include me.” Isn’t that true. Isn’t that odd. Crowds, concerts, cafes, classrooms. These places are now a soaking sponge of thoughts to me– of dreams and dreads and honest conversations that I cannot hear. They are a narrative palimpsest that never ends, and may often repeat. They are so many voices. And so many stories.

After all, it’s very true that we can be close physically but never so far apart as in our thoughts. We are all more inside than outside ourselves most of the time. I am. We are all more conscious and contemplative of the voices within than around us. Perhaps.

There is a beauty and a danger in all of this, however. For both worlds (the inside and the out; the present and the imagined; the “us” and the “other”) are equally important.

I’ve been thinking quite a bit about this theme as of late, and particularly about the balance that must be struck between the perception of reality around us, and moments of seeing beyond into an imagination of that which is hoped for. In so pondering, I have been reminded of a post that I wrote for another blog not long ago after reading Italo Calvino’s Invisible Cities. Says Calvino,

“In the center of Fedora, that gray stone metropolis, stands a metal building with a crystal globe in every room. Looking into each globe, you see a blue city, the model of a different Fedora. These are the forms the city could have taken if, for one reason or another, it had not become what we see today. In every age someone, looking at Fedora as it was, imagined a way of making the ideal city, but while he constructed his miniature model, Fedora was already no longer the same as before, and what had been until yesterday a possible future became only a toy in a glass globe.

The building with the globes is now Fedora’s museum: every inhabitant visits it, chooses the city that corresponds to his desires, contemplates it, imagining his reflection in the medusa pond that would have collected the waters of the canal (if it had not been dried up), the view from the high canopied box along the avenue reserved for elephants (now banished from the city), the fun of sliding down the spiral twisting minaret (which never found a pedestal from which to rise).

On the map of your empire, O Great Khan, there must be room both for the big, stone Fedora and the little Fedoras in glass globes. Not because they are all equally real, but because all are only assumptions. The one contains what is accepted as necessary when it is not yet so; the others, what is imagined as possible and, a moment later, is possible no longer.”

If we are not careful, we can spend so much time building the world of our dreams that we miss the reality of what is happening around us. This can lead to mistakes, heartaches and (in keeping with Bell Tolling) social injustices for ourselves and for others. However, if we are not careful, we can also watch the world around us so intently that we never enjoy the dream to make it better.

“There must be room both for….Fedora and the…Fedoras in glass globes.”


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