Reflections Before Bedtime #79

“It would be hung in attics, she thought; it would be destroyed. But what did that matter? she asked herself, taking up her brush again. She looked at the steps; they were empty; she looked at her canvas; it was blurred. With a sudden intensity, as if she saw it clear for a second, she drew a line there, in the center. It was done; it was finished. Yes, she thought, laying down her brush in extreme fatigue, I have had my vision.” To the Lighthouse, Virginia Woolf, pg. 208-209.

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[Image from Tumblr]

By: Gabriela Yareliz

I just finished reading To the Lighthouse, this afternoon on the train. The suited guy next to me was asleep, and his head kept bobbing in my direction. I finished the last page, just as the train arrived to my stop.

What a curious book, yes? I read it with great intrigue to see if it was really “one of the two or three finest novels of the twentieth century,” as the back of the book suggests. And naturally, I am a sucker for anything Virginia Woolf. I love her internal monologues, the parties and social gatherings in her books, the social interaction and the reflection of how we perceive and tolerate each other; the analysis on the weird ways we can idolize one another and deceive ourselves; the role of women and creativity– and most of all, I love how she philosophizes about the passage of time and how she bases time passing on experience and not so much on chronology, as scholars suggest.

Woolf is very Henri Bergson. Bergson is famous for his thoughts on la durée (duration), meaning the passing of time is “intuitive and internal rather than external and material.” Time is psychological. (I am intrigued and want to get my hands on Bergson’s: Time and Free Will: An Essay on the Immediate Data of Consciousness, Bergson’s essay on free will, which was a response to Immanuel Kant’s theory of free will not existing, unless outside of time and space).

At one point in today’s train ride, half of the book’s characters died in probably less than a paragraph. I flipped to the back of the book to comfort myself in the fact that Lily Briscoe lives. Thank God, I thought, out of all of the fictional characters in this novel, Lily was the only one, other than Mr. Ramsey, whom I tolerated. She makes it to the end. Good, I thought. Scholars have analyzed the quote above, which is how the book ends.

I like the quote because of the language, which alludes to the Bible. “…it was finished,” is a symbol of death and miraculous resurrection, scholars say. More than that, I love how Lily Briscoe is concerned about her painting and what people will do with the art she has created. But then, at the end, she realizes it doesn’t matter because she had her vision. Her experience made it enough.

We make art as we live life, and I am not talking about just literal art but about the art of living. Our choices, thoughts, decisions, relationships, all that we build and tear down… the art of living. And often, we care too much about other’s perceptions and the value they will give to these things or aspects of our lives. Instead, we should be like Lily Briscoe, and realize that it’s about our journey and growth. “It was done; it was finished.” And I hope, that in the end, you can say that it’s all going to be okay; a resurrection is coming. I hope we can all say: I am satisfied. “I have had my vision.”

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