to being well versed, in all things.
There occurs to me now one last anecdote, a bit long; skip it if you wish, it has nothing to do with the story. … I put it in because it seems to me somehow pertinent - if not to plot or parable, at least to purpose. About a guy I met in the nuthouse, a Mr. Siggs, a nervous, quick-featured self-schooled hick…a reader of encyclopedias, a memorizer of Milton…Siggs was terribly paranoid in crowds, equally hung up in one-to-one situations, and seemed to enjoy no ease at all except by himself inside a book. ‘Took a job in a shack hid away outside Baker. A place a hundred miles from noplace. Nobody, nothing, far as I could see. Took along complete set of Great Books. See a thousand miles in any direction, like it was all mine. Yes, beautiful…couldn’t make it though. Committed myself after a month and a half. I am a loner, a born one. And someday I will make it - that shack, I mean. Yes. I will, you’ll see. But not like last time. Not to hide. No. Next time I try it will be first because I choose to, then because it is where I am most comfortable. A man has to know he had a choice before he can enjoy what he chose. I know now. That a human has to make it with other humans…before he can make it with himself.’
I ran into Mr. Siggs again…we recalled our conversation and I asked how his plans had worked out. Perfectly - after some successful therapy he’d been discharged with honors over a year ago, had his outriding job, his Great Books, his shack…loved it. But didn’t he wonder if he was really choosing his shack or still just hiding in it? Nope. ‘After you get so you can make it with other people, and make it with yourself, there’s still work to be done; you still have the main party to deal with…’
‘What do you mean, Mr. Siggs? You mean deal with Nature? God?’
‘Yes, it could be. Nature or God. Or it could be time. Or Death. Or just the stars and the sage blossoms. Don’t know yet…I am fifty-three. Took fifty years, half a century, just to get to where I could deal with something my own size. Don’t expect me to work this other thing out overnight.’ The eyes closed and he seemed to sleep, a skinny back-country Buddha, on a hot rock miles from noplace. I walked on, trying to decide if he was saner or crazier than when I last saw him.
I decided he was."