Thursday, April 28, 2011

Maurice Sendak in Old Age

Maurice Sendak, at 82, is still ruminating on the issue that dominated much of his professional life: fear and courage. A whole swath of the American parenting industry attacked his work as too dark and scary for children, and he responded forcefully, calling his critics "cowards." He recently spoke to Amy Rosenberg, still saying "Children are brave little creatures . . . they protect their parents." I was saddened by this:
When I kick the bucket -- which can't be too long from now. I think I'm getting out just in time. Watching the news, everything seems to be in disorder. Everybody seems to be unhappy. We've lost the knack of living in the world with the sensation of safety.
Interesting that even the brave Sendak should, at the end, fear the disorder of the world. Looking around the safe suburb where I live I sometimes feel that there is so much order we are all drowning in it, so much order that we have to imagine dangers (Alar in apples, alien abduction, chemtrails) or seek them out (bungee jumping) to feel fully alive.

What does that phrase "the sensation of safety" mean? Sometimes it does seem to me that anxiety is the persistent evil of our time, growing ever greater as the real danger to our bodies lessens. What is it that we fear? Have our safe lives sapped our courage? Is the point of seeking out danger that the experience of terror somehow helps us control anxiety?

I wonder.

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