I Test Conrad’s Universal Truths While Shoveling My Driveway

For us to consider a literary “truth” to be “universal,” and for us to be able to speak in the “inflections” signified by “air-quotes,” we need to be able to apply the details of a text “naturally” to our own experiences. While removing the mixed wintry precipitation from my driveway today, I found myself reliving a 21st century northeast United States version of Conrad’s journey into the Heart of Darkness. These may or may not be the truths I discovered.

20150202_102045On Work
No, I don’t like shoveling. I had rather like photos on Instant Gram and play xBox and think of all the fine things that can be done. I don’t like shoveling—no man does—but I like what is in the shoveling,—the chance to find yourself. Your own reality—for yourself, not for others—what no other man can ever know. They can only see the asphalt on the driveway, and never can tell what it really means.

About Teddy, My Cat20150202_110510
The swift and indifferent placidity of that look troubled me. Two youths with foolish and cheery countenances were being piloted over, and Teddy threw at them the same quick glance of unconcerned wisdom. He seemed to know all about them and about me too. An eerie feeling came over me.

Or maybe Teddy is like the forest: And this stillness of life did not in the least resemble a peace. It was the stillness of an implacable force brooding over an inscrutable intention. It looked at you with a vengeful aspect.

On Snowplow Drivers Who Laugh When They Pile Hard-Crusted Snow at the End of Your Driveway

I’ve seen the devil of violence, and the devil of greed, and the devil of hot desire; but, by all the stars! these were strong, lusty, red-eyed devils, that swayed and drove snowplows—snowplows, I tell you. But as I stood on this driveway, I foresaw that in the blinding sunshine of that land I would become acquainted with an end of the driveway that was nearly impossible to shovel.

20150202_110304Destiny. My destiny! Droll thing shoveling is—that mysterious arrangement of merciless logic for a futile purpose. The most you can hope from it is some knowledge of yourself—that comes too late—and maybe a clear path from the garage to the street. I have shoveled the snow in the driveway. It is the most unexciting contest you can imagine. It takes place in an impalpable grayness, with nothing underfoot, with nothing around, without spectators, without clamor, without glory, without the great desire of victory, without the great fear of defeat, in a sickly atmosphere of tepid skepticism, without much belief in your own right, and still less in that of your adversary, the snow. If such is the form of ultimate wisdom, then shoveling is a greater riddle than some of us think it to be. I was within a hair’s-breadth of the last opportunity for pronouncement, and I found with humiliation that probably I would have nothing to say. This is the reason why I affirm that Kurtz was a remarkable man. He had something to say. He said it. Since I had peeped over the edge myself, I understand better the meaning of his stare, that could not see the asphalt of the driveway, but was wide enough to embrace the mountains of snow piled upon its edges, piercing enough to penetrate all the hearts that beat in the driveway. He had summed up—he had judged. ‘The horror!’ He was a remarkable man. After all, this was the expression of some sort of belief; it had candor, it had conviction, it had a vibrating note of rock salt in its whisper, it had the appalling face of a glimpsed truth—the strange commingling of desire and hate.

20150202_110230On My Return to Civilian Life
“No, they did not bury me, though there is a period of time which I remember mistily, with a shuddering wonder, like a passage through some inconceivable driveway that had no hope in it and no desire. I found myself back in the garage resenting the sight of people hurrying through the streets to filch a little money from each other, to devour their infamous cookies, to gulp their unwholesome cocoa, to dream their insignificant and silly dreams. They trespassed upon my thoughts. They were intruders whose knowledge of life was to me an irritating pretense, because I felt so sure they could not possibly shovel the snow I had shoveled. Their bearing, which was simply the bearing of commonplace individuals going about their business in the assurance of perfect safety, was offensive to me like the outrageous flauntings of folly in the face of a driveway it is unable to shovel. I had no particular desire to enlighten them, but I had some difficulty in restraining myself from laughing in their faces, so full of stupid importance. I dare say I was not very well at that time.

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