It must be this overarching commitment to what is really an abstraction, to one's children right or wrong, that can be even more fierce than the commitment to them as explicit, difficult people, and that can consequently keep you devoted to them when as individuals they disappoint. On my part it was this broad covenant with children-in-theory that I may have failed to make and to which I was unable to resort when Kevin finally tested my maternal ties to a perfect mathematical limit on. I didn't vote for parties, but for candidates. My opinions were as ecumenical as my larder, then still chock full of salsa verde from Mexico City, anchovies from Barcelona, lime leaves from Bangkok. I had no problem with abortion but abhorred capital punishment, which I suppose meant that I embraced the sanctity of life only in grown-ups. My environmental habits were capricious; I'd place a brick in our toilet tank, but after submitting to dozens of spit-in-the-air showers with derisory European water pressure, I would bask under a deluge of scalding water for half an hour. My closet wafter with Indian saris, Ghanaian wraparounds, and Vietnamese. My vocabulary was peppered with imports --. I so mixed and matched the planet that you sometimes worried I had no commitments to anything or anywhere, though you were wrong; my commitments were simply far-flung and obscenely specific. By the same token, I could not love child; I would have to love this one. I was connected to the world by a multitude of threads, you by a few sturdy guide ropes. It was the same with patriotism: You loved the of the United States so much more powerfully than the country itself, and it was thanks to your embrace of the American aspiration that you could overlook the fact that your fellow Yankee parents were lining up overnight outside FAO Schwartz with thermoses of chowder to buy a limited release of Nintendo. In the particular dwells the tawdry. In the conceptual dwells the grand, the transcendent, the everlasting. Earthly countries and single malignant little boys can go to hell; the idea of countries and the idea of sons triumph for eternity. Although neither of us ever went to church, I came to conclude that you were a naturally religious person.
The propensity to excessive simplification is indeed natural to the mind of man, since it is only by abstraction and generalisation, which necessarily imply the neglect of a multitude of particulars, that he can stretch his puny faculties so as to embrace a minute portion of the illimitable vastness of the universe. But if the propensity is natural and even inevitable, it is nevertheless fraught with peril, since it is apt to narrow and falsify our conception of any subject under investigation. To correct it partially - for to correct it wholly would require an infinite intelligence - we must endeavour to broaden our views by taking account of a wide range of facts and possibilities; and when we have done so to the utmost of our power, we must still remember that from the very nature of things our ideas fall immeasurably short of the reality.
You can define a net two ways, depending on your point of view. Normally you would say it is a meshed instrument designed to catch fish. But you could, with no great injury to logic, reverse the image and define the net as a jocular lexicographer once did: he called it a collection of holes tied together with string.