Marilynne Robinson and the Transitoriness of life

I have written before about one of my favorite contemporary American novelists, Marilynne Robinson. Two of her books are Housekeeping (my favorite) and Gilead for which she won a Pulitzer Prize in 2005. But she recently posted an article in The Nation entitled “Night Thoughts of a Baffled Humanist” and there demonstrated an ability to astutely address our world’s political and economic issues.

She brings what I call as cosmic perspective to the messes we are in:

Say that we are a puff of warm breath in a very cold universe. By this kind of reckoning we are either immeasurably insignificant, or we are incalculably precious and interesting. I tend toward the second view.

She sees our species as a very vulnerable creature at a very precarious point in our history. She brings to mind W. H. Auden’s description of us as creatures, “clinging to the granite skirts of our sensible old planet.” From this “cosmic perspective”, we are all “humans” and our primary identity with various and sundry nation-states is specious at best. The only way to successfully address our collective issues is to realize that we are all in the “mess” together and even more so, to borrow on old bromide, “none of us are gonna get out alive.” Therefore, our best efforts should be to work toward making this a more hospitable home for our children and for their children so that they can have even more fun in the brief moment they are allowed to cavort about on “this sensible old planet.”


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