Thursday, January 20, 2011

Jubal Sackett: This Thing That Is Me Is Not Yet Finished

I find myself early in my blogging life facing a fairly frightening, anxiety inducing situation involving my future health and well being.  Last night as I drifted off to sleep, facing the long dark night, my mind kept coming back to a single phrase that anchored me: this thing that is me is not yet finished.

It is a somewhat inexact quote from Jubal Sackett, one of the Louis L’Amour Sackett series, detailing a family’s history from the 16th century Fenlands of England to early America and eventually into the 19th century West.  The series is 17 books long, covering the lives of 13 main family members.  I have been an indifferent reader of Louis L’Amour for many years, never quite enthralled but never disappointed enough not to pick up another novel every few years.  The Sackett series in particular has always appealed to me, as the year I spent living in the East Anglian Fenlands was the year that I consider myself to have become an adult.

Last year I sought out a just opened used bookstore in a local college town, intent on buying something off of their western shelf.  The shelf was a total of four novels, one of which was Jubal Sackett.  I had a vague memory of reading that Jubal was the quiet and introspective member of the otherwise raucous and adventuresome group, so I selected that novel and set about reading.

It turns out that Jubal Sackett was the last of the series that L’Amour wrote, and one of the last novels written in an amazingly prolific career towards the end of his life.  Jubal Sackett seems to be a departure from his previously formulaic books, where L’Amour clearly had some things to say.  Jubal, the “ghost in the woods”, the proto-mountain man, is loner, wanderer, natural philosopher, who drops lines like the following throughout the course of the novel:

“It is not enough to do, one must also become.  I wish to be wiser, stronger, better.  This… this thing that is me is incomplete.  It is only the raw material with which I have to work.  I want to make it better than I received it.”

This thing that is me is incomplete.  This thing that is me is not yet finished.  Thank you, Jubal Sackett.

1 comment:

  1. Well said. For many years now I have viewed the life of a human as an arc of creation. Improvement and rebirth continue throughout a well-lived life, irrespective of the contingencies of age, injury, and attrition. Sometimes this process appears, to the shallow observer, as overwhelmed by sadness in the end, or as overshadowed by the failures inevitably accruing in a long fray. But I I believe the truth of it is that the greatest souls find the will and courage, and perhaps something outside of themselves, that allows their core to evolve and become more fully itself, even while the extremities either fall away, or transform into something unrecognizable.