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in `this world of fl eeting
trials and choices,'* out of place
or out of date, a piece of outsize bric-a-brac -- I know selves
that should be, like some great
and now elaborately ugly Nootka woodcarving,
propped in the ethnic room of a dusty provincial museum....
But commonly a self
is a more modest thing, something improvised
by the spirit, over a stretch of some years, for daily use --
use that's no easier
on it than on any other implement;
scratches, corrosion, dented and mended places in time
may give it its pathos
and dignity -- some old carpenter's tool, handle
broken and taped, blade nicked but smooth and bright still.
All this says nothing of
the temporary selves made for special
occasions, and sound and true for their purposes,
or of that self of selves
which is like those marine creatures
made up of diff erent animals, no one kind
able to survive apart,
each kind providing in its own way
for all the others -- a Portuguese man-of-war of a Self!...
*The quoted phrase is Churchill's.