Henri: Where are You Going?

From Steinbeck, Cannery Row

“He’s been building that boat for seven years that I know of … Every time it nearly gets finished he changes it and starts over again.  I think he’s nuts.  Seven years on a boat.”
Doc was sitting on the ground pulling off his rubber boats.  “You don’t understand, he said gently .  “Henri loves boats but he’s afraid of the ocean.”
“What’s he want a boat for then?” Hazel demanded.
“He likes boats,” said Doc.  “But suppose he finishes his boat.  Once it’s finished people will say, “Why don’t you ever put in the water?”  Then if he puts it in the water, he’ll have to go out in it, and he hates the water.  So you see, he never finishes the boat – – – so he doesn’t have to launch it.”

– John Steinbeck, Cannery Row

I’ve always liked this exchange between two men, about a third man, Henri.  For men, there is a shortage of other men who will take initiative to come and ask hard questions.  Hard questions like: “Henri, where are you, bro?”;  “Henri, what are you doing?”; Henri, where are you going?”;  “Henri, are you going to launch that boat?  Or are you going to stay on the beach, where it is safe?”

Although the scenario was far more intense and intimidating, the first question was asked in a garden long, long, ago: “Adam, where are you?”  When I am asked the same question, by the same One who asked that question in that garden long, long, ago, I don’t always know how to answer.  Sometimes I hide.  But the question does not go away.



2 thoughts on “Henri: Where are You Going?

  1. Steinbeck is my favorite writer, a darling and original mind and an exquisite sense of good writing. But an interesting pairing (as always) of ideas!

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