I’m teaching Hemingway in class. A Farewell to Arms- where war, love, food, nature, and alcohol litter the pages. Selling the plot to a bunch of 17- year- olds was quite easy. Like I said, war, love (or let’s be honest, sex), food, and alcohol. But I know, and hopefully they will too, it contains more. Nuances, often unspoken, unseen, but felt. Maybe their young hearts are too fresh to grasp or understand it in its entirety, but, maybe not. Hemingway’s sentences are short, brave, and true. Then there are long parts of serene scenes of nature and of leaves falling and of clear water and it is usually crisp and clean and followed by a manly scene with shrapnel and blood (and of course a lot of the conjunction and thrown in for good measure). I’m drawn to his lack of explanation at this time in my life.
A few days ago I put Hemingway’s “iceberg theory” on the board for the class to discuss:
“If a writer knows enough about what he is writing about, he may omit things that he knows. The dignity of movement of an iceberg is due to only one ninth of it being above water.” – Ernest Hemingway
The dignity of movement.
That phrase held me captive.
Movement and stillness. I have been on the move and felt as if I have not had a moment to breathe, to dive deep; to just be still lately. And ironically, because of the reliable tide and current of the days I’ve felt stagnant.
Some critics say that Hemingway’s omissions created distance from the characters, and lacked a sufficient amount of action. Distance and insufficient action is one way to put life lately –it’s easy to live on the surface. But I think the depth is there. Sometimes forgotten, but there.
It’s made me think that to stop and get to know a new person, or unearth new scriptural meaning,(or to even take time to read them at all), or to take the time to ask new and refreshing questions to friends and our Heavenly Father is to believe in the dignity of the underneath. The underbelly. And sometimes searching requires ugly dive gear and sacrifice.
I’ve begun to see that though it is simple, to exist solely on one-eighth of potential and possibilities without believing more exists, depletes passion and gratitude.
The dignity for me also comes in believing the movement below awaits discovery – directing the course of the visible. While not always seen or acknowledged, it exists.
Later, that day I found some waves drawn on the board with the words “go under water”.
I am going to try and take that advice, while marveling at the dignity of the seen and unseen.