Anyway, there is a great quote from that novel, spoken by the protagonist Todd Andrews, in which he claims that he wants to be judged by "the finished product" of his life, and "not by the steps of construction." He adds:
"There would be a grandeur in the forest, so to speak, transcending and redeeming any puny deficiencies in the trees. "
Ahhh, would that it were so! I imagine that we all, from time to time, have indulged just this sort of pining sentiment-- a belief that each indiviual's life will add up to more than the sum of its parts. And, yet, but... here we stand amidst the puny, deficient trees. I was reminded of Barth's passage from The Floating Opera by a recent post on Booga Face's blog about the dangers of believing too-simply in the "promise" of the Symbolic Obama. (Well, to be honest, Booga's post just gave me a reason to write about Barth's quote, since I pretty much run those words over and over in my head, like a mantra.) Like Booga, I worry that many Obama supporters are investing all of their energy and faith in the still-yet-to-come "grandeur of the forest" at the expense of paying real attention to some of the puny deficiencies in the trees.
Let me state outright that, at this point in the game, I am a full supporter of Obama for President of the United States... but that doesn't mean that I'm gulping down whatever Kool-Aid is being handed out. The "change that I can believe in" must be real change, a real departure from politics-as-usual, and that means that I am interested in making sure that whatever puny deficiencies are ultimately transcended by the grandeur of the forest are actually "puny." One of the things that I really admired about John Edwards was that that richer-than-all-get-out guy never stopped harping about the plight of the poor and disenfranchised in this country, which is the only perspective from which a "change I can believe in" will be enacted. (Okay, so I did and still do drink the Edwards "Two Americas" Kool-Aid!) My hope is that Obama supporters (myself included) stay on his back about that message. Pro-business Democrats, as far as I am concerned, might as well be Republicans.
So, I'm all for the grandeur of the forest, and I am well aware of the fact that achieving that grandeur sometimes means taking tiny, incremental steps that might even necessitate downplaying some of the "puny deficiencies in the trees." But I'm afraid that, in these dire times, we need to be pretty rigorous about what counts as genuinely "puny" deficiencies.