Delusions of Grandeur

A Soldier of the Great War by Mark Helprin

A Soldier of the Great War
Mark Helprin

Here’s something for "Perfection ", Peter. It’s a superbly spiritual passage from Mark Helprin, a writer whose fiction I love, though whose politics I loathe.  Life hands out challenges like that, doesn’t it? Beauty is found in the most unusual places. Had I known his politics before having read most of his books, I might never have picked up the first, Winter’s Tale (a delight of American magic realism).  This passage, however, comes from A Soldier of the Great War .  Oh, this man understands love and spirit, and beauty and passion. Oh, he does! For that, I forgive him writing speeches for Bush Jr.  lol — I think maybe you’re right after all: spirituality is independent of politics!

Alessandro is a wise old man, the titular soldier of the Great War, who has lived life with passion, vigour, and experienced the truest of loves. Nicolo…Nicolo is a boy on the cusp of manhood.

"I don’t want to walk all the way to Sant’ Angelo with a . . . with someone who defeats himself before he’s begun," Alessandro said. "I’m going to tell you something that you may or may not understand, and I want you to memorize it and say it to yourself now and then, until, someday, you do understand."
 
"Is it long?"
 
"No."
 
"Go ahead."
 
"Nicolo," Alessandro said.
 
"Nicolo," Nicolo repeated.
 
"The spark of life is not gain."
 
"The spark of life is not gain."
 
"Nor is it luxury."
 
"Nor is it luxury."
 
"The spark of life is movement."
 
"Movement."
 
"Color."
 
"Color."
 
"Love."
 
"Love."
 
"And furthermore . . ."
 
"And furthermore . . ."
 
"If you really want to enjoy life, you must work quietly and
humbly to realize your delusions of grandeur."
 
"But I don’t have them."
 
"Start to have them."



 
 

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