Steve Almond’s new book, Against Football, asks essentially the same question. How is it that a game which “in its exalted moments, is not just a sport, but a lovely and intricate form of art” also legitimizes, as he says, “a tolerance for violence, greed, racism, and homophobia”?
Nearly the same things happen to the human body during decomposition, whether in the open or underground in a carefully sealed box: variables aside, we decay. But perhaps what prevents some of us, given the choice, from excarnating the body of a loved one, rather than embalming and sealing her in a casket, is how human decay plays out in our minds.
The dancers keep falling. In other competitions, these gravitational mishaps are called crashes or stumbles, but here are the world’s ballet elite: even when they fall, they are graceful. Contestants from South Korea, Mexico, Brazil, Japan, Russia, and the United States appear before us and, as if cursed en masse, crumple on the landing of a grande jete or stumble emerging from a bombastic blur of pirouettes.
Everyone knows something about the power of things, how they remind us of our actions over time, how they have the power to delight or disappoint us. I’m referring here to what Katy Simpson Smith calls “oddments”—the items we don’t mean to collect, that we can’t quite bring ourselves to throw away, that we put on a desk in a spare room and forget.
Almost heaven. That’s what we call our home, here in West Virginia. The Almost of our Heaven is both a space of longing and of possibility, that forever resonance in which we’re caught, between ceolum and infernum, enchantment and collapse, these booms and busts we have come to read as our given, not chosen, inheritance.