Thursday, March 13, 2014

March 13: Torn Web, "Confessions," Saint Augustine

...Wilbur often thought of Charlotte.  A few strands of her old web still hung in the doorway.  Every day Wilbur would stand and look at the torn, empty web, and a lump would come to his throat.  No one had ever had such a friend--so affectionate, so loyal, and so skillful.

I think this passage highlights something very significant about Charlotte's Web:  it's a beautifully written book.  White's prose is sparse and simple, and yet, with simple imagery (a torn web), he can conjure the deepest of emotions.  Charlotte's absence is a palpable ache in those few sentences.

Today is when I'm supposed to reach into my book bag, take out a book I'm carrying around, and talk about it.  Well, get ready.  The tome I pulled out is a copy of Saint Augustine's Confessions.  I had it in my possession for a while, and, every now and then, I read a few pages.

I'll be honest.  Sometimes it's not easy reading.  Augustine's writing, unlike E. B. White's, is dense.  He packs a lot into each paragraph.  But there's much beauty in his language, as well:

...So I was welcomed by the consolations of human milk, but it was not my mother or my nurses who made any decision to fill their breasts, but you who through them gave me infant food, in accordance with your ordinance and the riches which are distributed deep in the natural order.  You also granted me not to wish for more than you were giving, and to my nurses the desire to give me what you gave them...

A gorgeous little passage about God's generosity.  Yet, it also touches upon greed.  Augustine, in the image of the suckling infant, rejoices in the idea of having just enough.  It's a warning to be satisfied with the gifts God has provided.  Just enough milk.  Just enough desire.

Wilbur is learning this lesson at the end of Charlotte's Web.  Sure, he misses his spider friend, but he also rejoices in the gifts Charlotte has given him.  His first autumn.  First snow.  First Christmas.  He doesn't spend his days lamenting his loss.  Rather, he gives thanks for the friendship he had.  Just enough friendship.

That's something Saint Marty has to learn and relearn every day:  being happy with his "just enough."

Think of the web as half full...

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