Now I have here a letter from a gentleman I do not know named Richard, of Burnt Bunny, Utah (the name slightly disguised), whom I have not been able to reach by phone and whom I do not therefore identify fully by name or address lest the savages descend on him.
His is a classic case of incubation and rebirth. As you will see, he gradually lost an enthusiasm for the wilderness and its natives. Then he fell into listlessness, a sense that life was not worth living, as of course it was not. Then vain regrets he had ever gone to Utah in the first place. Then a little surge of energy and a total change of direction. But let him tell you himself:
"Okay, all right, fine. Enough's enough, Henry. That . . . article one about Washington beat up on me like some sort of Wellington. I know when I'm licked. I suspected I was licked as early as last summer. Now I'm certain.
"I'm a native Washingtonian, and had lived in that best-kept-secret city all my life, aside from a couple of years fooling around in Europe, until last February. Then it suddenly occurred to me that I'd had enough of the humidity and that it'd be nice to have mountains on the horizon--mountains--and on that whimsical impulse I moved near Salt Lake City. It was a mistake.
"You know how it is: You make a mistake and then instead of recognizing it you do everything in your power, commit emotional and intellectual atrocities, invoke philosophies from Auda to Zen, to prove to yourself you haven't really made a mistake at all. Not really.
"Yep, you admit that you miss Glenn Brenner and WTOP radio in the mornings; you miss going to Memorial Stadium three or four times in the summer and you admit it, too; you miss cycling along the Potomac and drinking wine under the moon in Montrose Park, and just sitting in the back of the Lincoln Memorial watching the lights of traffic at night; you miss risking your neck at Carderock and feeding the bluegill at a little-known pond at Great Falls.
"You miss 'The Therapeutist' on the third floor of the Hirshhorn and the merry-go-round and the pigeons on the Mall, and the pizza they scowlingly serve you at the Grog & Tankard, and those wonderful low plump sofas downstairs at the Foundry. You miss all that. A little. Maybe even your friends. But you practice your philosophical gymnastics and you live on in Utah.
"Then the Redskins win the Super Bowl.
"The Redskins win the Super Bowl and out here the 10:30 p.m. TV movie goes by the name of Insomniac Theatre, and you can't buy a drink and the newspaper is a kitty-cat newspaper and everyone is blond. Blond, Henry. The Redskins win the Super Bowl and 80 percent of the blond women are pregnant here, and excessive hawkish optimism hangs in the atmosphere like a smog, and there's nothing to do after 10 at night, and you don't know what Maryland did against N.C. State.
"Then one day you pick up a National Geographic and like a confirmed masochist you read about your home town. You look at photographs which to you suddenly become heartbreaking, suddenly shine out at you with all that is glorious . . .
"The movers are coming on March 1. And the first thing I'm going to do when I get back is pop into the Peacock Room at the Freer. Funny, all along I'd been thinking that room was my secret."
Well, there you have in a nutshell the power of the incubated heart. Who would have guessed, seeing this man in Burnt Bunny, wallowing in his damned mountains, that a profound spirit was hard at work in him, even though he consciously supposed it was no mistake to be in Utah.
But all along the grievances of the heart were building up inside him. He knew where he belonged, though he wallowed still. Perhaps even all those pregnant blonds--but enough, he came to his senses. And why?
Do not imagine it was the Redskins. Do not imagine it was some article about his old home town. No, it was a balance in his soul, putting on weight here and losing weight there, so that at the last the merest straw would do it, would shift his whole heart to a new gravity. And all the time, he didn't know it, didn't see it coming, though he half guessed it.
Similar sudden shiftings have been seen before in human history. St. Paul, for example. At the very time a life seems to be sinking to ever more disgusting levels, there may be this new balance approaching, though not visible to the outer world who supposed Richard was okay in Utah or that St. Paul was a natural-born slob of a tax collector. But little did the world know.
Do not, little children, despair. You may be in Utah, yet better things may be in store for you than you have any idea of. You may already be rejecting (with few or no visible signs) the misery and wretchedness of your ruined life. You may already be on the upward slope without knowing it yet.
Now one fellow asked me why I attached any importance to this "amusing letter," as he called it.
That sort of blockheaded failure of sympathy burns me up. Should we not find far more than simple amusement in Richard's moving testimony? He was out there in the desert living on locusts, but is returning to the Hogs. He was reading drivel, but is coming home. He was lost. And is found.