Parallels 5 – The jawbone

These might just be my top 3 books ever.

The other day I picked up the lower jaw of a hog, with white and sound teeth and tusks, which suggested that there was an animal health and vigor distinct from the spiritual. This creature succeeded by other means than temperance and purity. “That in which men differ from brute beasts,” says Mencius, “is a thing very inconsiderable; the common herd lose it very soon; superior men preserve it carefully.” Who knows what sort of life would result if we had attained to purity? If I knew so wise a man as could teach me purity I would go to seek him forthwith. “A command over our passions, and over the external senses of the body, and good acts, are declared by the Ved to be indispensable in the mind’s approximation to God.” Yet the spirit can for the time pervade and control every member and function of the body, and transmute what ill form is the grossest sensuality into purity and devotion.

– Henry David Thoreau, Walden

There on the sand not far away from the lovers lay the old sheep’s skull without its jaw. Clean, white, wind-swept, sand-rubbed, a more unpolluted piece of bone existed noewhere on the coast of Cornwall. (…)
‘Throw it away, dear, do,’ she said, as they got into the road; but Jacob squirmed away from her; and the wind rising, she took out her bonnet-pin, looked at the sea, and stuck it in afresh. The wind was rising. The waves showed that uneasiness, like something alive, restive, expecting the whip, of waves before a storm. (…)
In the other bed by the door, Jacob lay asleep, fast asleep, profoundly unconscious. The sheep’s jaw with the big yellow teeth in it lay at his feet. He had kicked it against the iron bed-rail.
– Virginia Woolf, Jacob’s Room

The gunslinger stood for a moment, frozen, and then one of the huge spiders dropped on his arm and scrambled frantically up to his shoulder. With an involuntary grunt he brushed it away and got his feet moving. He did not want to do the next thing, but custom was strict, inviolable. Take the dead from the dead, the old proverb said; only a corpse may speak true prophecy. He went to the hole and punched at it. The sandstone crumbled easily at the edges, and with a bare stiffening of muscles, he thrust his hand through the wall.
And touched something solid, with raised and fretted knobs. He drew it out. He held a jawbone, rotted at the far hinge. The teeth leaned this way and that.
‘All right,’ he said softly. He thrust it rudely into his back pocket and went back up the ladder, carrying the last cans awkwardly.
– Stephen King, The Dark Tower: The Gunslinger

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