Saturday, September 20, 2014

Atticus and Absalom

From Atticus by Ron Hansen:
Were Atticus to talk honestly, he thought, he'd say he was alone all the time and this was his son whom he loved and ached for, and heaven was where he was, and Atticus hated himself, as he always did, for insisting and teaching and holding up standards and seeming to want Scott to be him, when all he wanted was for Scott to be happy and to know he was loved and loved and loved.
I've read Atticus once before. I didn't like it that much, even though I like Ron Hansen. I think I was too immature, somehow. I'm rereading it now. It's gripping and gorgeous.

Today I managed to finally get caught up with school. Today Andrea and I spent some time at our favorite coffee shop preparing to lead a study of the books of Samuel.

I'm reading through those books in Morning Prayer right now. I always loved II Samuel as a kid--fantastic stories of gore and violence and tragedy. My favorite was always Asahel chasing Abner (2 Samuel 2:22-23):
Turn aside from following me. Why should I strike you to the ground? How then could I lift up my face to your brother Joab?' But he refused to turn aside. Therefore Abner struck him in the stomach with the butt of his spear, so that the spear came out at his back. And he fell there and died where he was. And all who came to the place where Asahel had fallen and died, stood still.
I couldn't believe that was a Bible story. How could a Bible story be so... so... gruesome.

I still love those books, but--just as I was once too young to love Atticus in the way I ought to have--I now am more deeply struck by the stark moments of grief--and the surpassing beauty of the story.

Phinehas' freshly widowed wife in I Samuel 4 naming her newborn son Ichabod, "saying, 'The glory has departed from Israel' because the ark of God had been captured and because her father-in-law and her husband." And then dying.

Or David's flight from Jerusalem into the wilderness ahead of his son Absalom. This morning I read II Samuel 16:5-14. Shimei, a relative of Saul, "cursed continually" and threw stones at David and his company as they went. Abishai, understandably irritated, wants to "go over and take off his head," but David won't let him: "Behold, my own son seeks my life; how much more now may this Benjaminite! Leave him alone, and let him curse, for the Lord has told him to."

And then David's grief over Absalom's death in II Samuel 18: "And the king was deeply moved and went up to the chamber over the gate and wept. And as he went, he said, 'O my son Absalom, my son, my son Absalom! Would I had died instead of you, O Absalom, my son, my son!'"


Tonight Andrea is celebrating the birth of a good friend of ours at a show. Meanwhile, I'm at home. Reading Atticus. Listening to Hamilton Leithauser's fantastic solo debut.

There've been worse Saturdays.