Sunday, 21 October 2012

More on Father Henry

A few more words about Father Henry.

 "'Cold' was to him merely a word;  and if he stopped up the door, or livened up the lamp, it was for my sake he did it. He had nothing to do with 'those things' and this struggle was not his struggle: he was somewhere else, living another life, fighting with other weapons.
He was right and I was wrong in those moments when I rebelled against his existence and insisted rashly that he 'could not live like this.' I was stupid not to see, then, that he truly had no need of anything. He lived, he sustained himself, by prayer.Had he been dependent only upon human strength he would have lived in despair, been driven mad. But he called upon other forces, and they preserved him. Incredible as it will seem to the incredulous, when the blizzard was too intense to be borne, he prayed, and the wind dropped. When, one day, he was about to die of hunger- he and the single Eskimo who accompanied him- he prayed; and that night there were two seal in their net. It was childish of me to attempt to win him back to reality: he could not live with reality.
I the 'scientist', was non-existent beside this peasant mystic. He towered over me. My resources were as nothing compared to his, which were inexhaustible, his mystical vestment was shelter enough against hunger, against cold, against every assault of the physical world from which he lived apart. Once again I had been taught that the spirit was immune and irresistible, and matter corruptible and weak. There is something more than cannon in war, and something more than grub and shelter in the existence of this conqueror of the Arctic.
If, seeing what I have seen, a man still refused to believe this, he would do better to stay at home, for he had proved himself no traveller."

-Gontran De Poncins in Kabloona.

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