Friday, May 27, 2011

On Reading The Road

The Road, by Cormac McCarthy, is more a book you walk than read. On every page, it was impossible not to envision myself as a father in such a place, in such a time: after the sun has shivered away, and the land is filled with never ending gray ash.

McCarthy recreates the world in its end, and reveals the inhumane souls that people it, ravaging the land and one another for any way to stay alive. And indeed, the vision is bleak.

And yet.

There is a father and a son, and they walk the road together, refusing to cave to what seems a paramount fact of life: it's over. But they go on. Always they go on.

This passage, words which the father shares with his son, forced me to read it three times and record it in my journal:

When your dreams are of some world that never was or of some world that never will be and you are happy again then you will have given up. Do you understand? And you cant give up. I wont let you (202).

What the father shares here is nothing short of a definition of hope--that authentic hope lies not in dreaming up a world that never was or never will be, but instead lies in confronting the world in which we live, day after day, and refusing to give up in the face of all that we find there. Such hope involves looking at the havoc we wreak upon one another and saying, I refuse to give up. I refuse to believe that this is all it ever will be, and instead I will keep walking in a way that speaks of humanity, love even.

And that is McCarthy's final reflection in The Road: love outlasts. Love outlasts every possible hunger; loves outlasts every vision of pain and tragedy. Love outlasts every offer of quick release. Love outlasts every brutal sin we have created. Love outlasts and it outlasts and still, it outlasts.

When I closed the pages of The Road, sitting in the old archives room at the city center library in York, I cried. For the sadness of what wasn't, yes. But also for the beauty of what is.