‘Alone and blind and endlessly voyaging [said the Head of Orpheus] I think constantly of fidelity. Fidelity is a matter of perception; nobody is unfaithful to the sea or to mountains or to death: once recognised they fill the heart. In love or terror or in loathing one responds to them with the true self; fidelity is not an act of the will: the soul is compelled by recognitions. Anyone who loves, anyone who perceives the other person fully can only be faithful, can never be unfaithful to the sea and the mountains and the death in that person, so pitiful and heroic is it to be a human being.’Commenting on the quote, the programme narrator says: "In these words from writer Russell Hoban, love is far from blind. What matters most seems to be the ability to perceive another person fully, to listen, and acknowledge them."
The episode was entitled "99 words", following the theme that if you had only enough breath left to speak 99 words, what would they be? The above is actually 110 words and the reader says "pitiable" instead of "pitiful" (sorry) but here at Slickman Towers we agree that if under those circumstances you came out with these words, or many others from the work of Russell Hoban, you wouldn't be doing too badly in the grand scheme of things.
You can listen to the programme on BBC iPlayer for a limited time - the quote starts at 17:48.
Hat-tips to the eagle-eared Alastair Bickley for flagging up the quote and Chris Bell for the link.
The image above is Head of Orpheus Drifting on the Waters, or the Mystic (1880) by Odilon Redon, borrowed from this site.