Two Lives by Richard King

Story type: Essay

I often wish that we could all of us lead two lives. I don’t mean I wish that we could live twice as long–though, in reality, it would come to the same thing. But I would like to live the two lives which I want to lead, and only do lead in a sort of patchwork-quilt kind of way. I would like to live a life in which I could wander gipsy-like over the face of the globe–seeing everything, doing everything, meeting everybody. I should also like to live a purely vegetable existence in some remote country village–sleeping away my life in happy domesticity, away from the crowd, free from care, tranquil, and at peace. I suppose that, even as dreams, they are only too futile–but they are very pleasant dreams nevertheless. I know that they are dreams–since I am quite sure that the reality would be far less satisfactory than it seems in anticipation. There is “always a fly in the amber” as the saying goes, and my experience is, that the truth more nearly resembles a great big fly with a tiny speck of amber sticking somewhere to its back. For in our dream voyages we overlook the fleas, the mosquitoes, the hunt for lodgings, the struggle with languages, the hundred-and-one disturbances of the spirit which are inseparable from real voyages of any kind and bombard our inner tranquillity at every turn. In the same way, when we gaze at the peaceful landscape of some hidden-away English countryside, we yearn to live among such peacefulness, forgetting that, though life in the country may look peaceful to the stranger’s eye, experience teaches us that gossip and scandal and the continual agitation round and round the trivial–an agitation so great that the trivial becomes colossal–at last rob life of anything resembling dolce far niente mid country lanes and in the shadow of some country church. In fact, it seems to me that the emotion which we seek–the emotion of strange wonderplaces, the emotion of utter restfulness which falls upon the soul like a benediction–do come to us from time to time, but at the most unexpected moments and in the most unlikely places. They come–and we hug them in our memory like precious thoughts. And sometimes we try to reproduce them artificially, only to discover that “never anything twice” is one of the lessons of life–and quite the last one we ever learn, even if we ever do learn it–which is doubtful.

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