Swimming in the Afternoon

December 29, 2004

Germany has declared war on Russia. Swimming in the afternoon.
                                                    — Franz Kafka. 1883-1924
                                                        Czech-born Austro-Hungarian fiction writer
                                                        from his diary entry for August 2, 1914

Holidailies 2004To have a site like this is to be self-absorbed. It’s not one of those dynamic blogs that scoop traditional news services and exert political influence. It’s not a fan site designed to keep the followers of writers or performers apprised of their schedules. It’s “a journal of personal essays,” designed to do what Frances McCullough says Sylvia Plath’s diaries did for her, ” . . . chart a life, . . .  pique a memory, . . . confirm inner life and perhaps . . . dispel the doubt that one exists at all.” And, as I observed in the very first piece I posted here, we all know what happened to Sylvia.

While I’ve been congratulating myself for having written 15,000 words this month, outlining my plans to write some more, and suggesting that writing a snappy, interesting holiday letter that doesn’t make your friends wish they’d never met you isn’t all that hard, people half a world away have been struggling with the effects of a powerful earthquake in the Indian Ocean and the resulting tsunamis which have killed more than a hundred thousand people, with tens of thousands still missing and more than a million left homeless. It seems that the Good News which Advent calls us to anticipate will be a long time coming for many.

Franz Kafka’s diary entry that seems to put the event that would tear Europe apart on the same level with his afternoon recreation is often held up as an example of self-absorption. If I kept such an epigrammatic little book I might have written for this past Monday, “Tidal waves have left a million people homeless. I bought a novel about Wyoming this afternoon.”

Some online journallers have put up banners and buttons calling for donations to the relief efforts. Chances are, if you’re reading this, you already know where those donation sites are or have your own preferred channel for your generosity. If you don’t have a preference, try The Hunger Site or UNICEF. They’re my favorites.

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