We want a witness

My holiday reading was inspired by an emergency gift I bought for a friend shortly before she left for a Christmas holiday in Canada: Margaret Atwood’s The Blind Assassin, published before self-publishing and social media were a thing.

Many thoughts arise during the reading process – all too dull for what is intended to be only a quick post. Maybe something for another time.

Two paragraphs from an early chapter particularly resonated this morning.

Why is it we want so badly to memorialize ourselves? Even while we’re still alive. We wish to assert our existence, like dogs peeing on fire hydrants. We put on display our framed photographs, our parchment diplomas, our silver-plated cups; we monogram our linen, we carve our names on trees, we scrawl them on washroom walls. It’s all the same impulse. What do we hope from it? Applause, envy, respect? Or simply attention, of any kind we can get?

At the very least we want a witness. We can’t stand the idea of our own voices falling silent finally, like a radio running down.

The Blind Assassin, Margaret Attwood, 2001

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