“Flower Hunters” in Florida by Lauren Groff

A vignette of a woman searching for herself, searching for value in herself. Feeling a failure as a mother compared to her husband. Comparing herself to Meg, who is better than everyone. Escaping  into William Bartram’s adventures in Florida. Then the sinkhole!

“She would take a break from herself, too, but she doesn’t have that option. For a minute, she lets herself imagine the larger sinkhole below the baby one opening very slowly and cupping her and the house and the dog and the piano all the way to the very black bottom of the limestone hollow and gently depositing them there so far down that nobody could get her out, they could only visit, her family’s heads peering once in a while over the lip, tiny pale bits against the blue sky. From down there, everyone would seem so happy. She comes in from the rain. The kitchen is too bright. Surely, in the history of humanity, she is not the only one to feel like this. Surely, in the history of herself, all of those versions atop previous versions, she has felt worse.”

Beverly pointed me to a passage of a book she is reading, Civilization and its Discontents by Mohsin Hamid.

“[Talking about fiction]We’re born with an in-built capacity for language. It is wired into our brains, just as an in-built capacity for breathing is wired into our lungs. We need language. We need language to tell stories. We need stories to create a self. We need a self because the complexity of the chemical processes that make up our individual humanities exceeds the processing power of our brains. The self we create is a fiction. On this point, religion and cognitive neuroscience converge. When the machine of a human being is turned on, it seems to produce a protagonist, just as a television produces an image. I think this protagonist, this self, often recognizes that it is a fictional construct, but it also recognizes that thinking of itself as such might cause it to disintegrate. Maybe, therefore, it prefers to encounter itself obliquely. Maybe our selves are more comfortable exploring their fictional natures in stories that are themselves avowedly fictional—in novels, for example. Maybe novels are where our selves get to put up their feet, take off their clothes and makeup and dentures, cut loose with an echoing fart, and be a little truer to what they are for a bit, before they are once more pressed into service, sealed in their uniforms, and dispatched to face a reality in which they can’t, for good reason, entirely believe. ” (2013)

This brings me back to the book we read by Daniel C. Dennett, From Bacteria to Bach and Back: The Evolution of Minds, where Dennett argues that consciousness is constructed.

Richard Smaby

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