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January 09, 2005

Epigraph

I've been out of town for a few days. More on that later. On one of my jaunts I found a used copy of Some Words of Jane Austen by Stuart M. Tave (University of Chicago Press, 1973). I'm only a few pages in, but I like it so far. Tave opens his book with two epigraphs:

The most beautiful lives, in my opinion, are those which conform to the common and human model, with order, but without miracle and without extravagant behavior.
-Montaigne, "Of Experience"

If one wants uncommon experiences, a little renunciation, a little performance of duty, will give one far more unusual sensations than all the fine free passion in the universe.
-The Autobiography of Bertrand Russell

While these quotations appear before a collection of essays about the works of Jane Austen, maybe it's also because of the new year that I find these words so compelling. I've actually scrawled an over-ambitious list of resolutions. (No. 1: No more cropped pants. EVER!)

Synonyms for resolution include:

definition: answer
syn.: analysis, assertion, band-aid, breakdown, call, conclusion, decision, declaration, determination, dissection, elucidation, end, exposition, finding, interpretation, judgment, motion, nod, outcome, pay dirt, presentation, proposal, proposition, quick fix, recitation, recommendation, resolve, settlement, solution, solving, sorting out, ticket, unraveling, upshot, verdict, working out

definition: determination
syn.: aim, boldness, constancy, courage, dauntlessness, decidedness, decision, declaration, dedication, determination, doggedness, earnestness, energy, firmness, fixed purpose, fortitude, guts, heart, immovability, intent, intention, judgment, mettle, moxie, obstinacy, perseverance, pluck, purpose, purposefulness, purposiveness, relentlessness, resoluteness, resolve, settlement, sincerity, spirit, spunk, staunchness, staying power, steadfastness, stubbornness, tenacity, verdict, will, willpower

Some of these are preferable to others, such as determination, fixed purpose, or courage. Others seem to have less lasting effects: band-aid or quick fix. Some seem to convey compromise or an element of chance: settlement, sorting out, working out, upshot. Other words speak more to me about the difficulty of maintaining one's resolve, of hanging on to one's decision, if need be, by the skin of one's teeth: doggedness, steadfastness, perseverance, tenacity, fortitude.

It's early yet in the year. No need to drive myself so that I abandon my goals as lost causes, as reason for disappointment or heartbreak. If I can merely hold fast, if I can remain fixed of purpose, then sometimes that will be enough. If. If. If.

Yours, &c., LC | 05:12 PM | Jane , Writing & Language | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

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