Great Moments in Literature: The Green Light

Recently, my class finished the classic American novel, The Great Gatsby. I’m always struck by the ending–still not sure entirely what it means, but I think that’s the beauty of it: that it can be interpreted in so many ways. Anyway, here’s what I’m talking about…

“Most of the big shore places were closed now and there were hardly any lights except the shadowy, moving glow of a ferryboat across the Sound. And as the moon rose higher the inessential houses began to melt away until gradually I became aware of the old island here that flowered once for Dutch sailors’ eyes—a fresh, green breast of the new world. Its vanished trees, the trees that had made way for Gatsby’s house, had once pandered in whispers to the last and greatest of all human dreams; for a transitory enchanted moment man must have held his breath in the presence of this continent, compelled into an æsthetic contemplation he neither understood nor desired, face to face for the last time in history with something commensurate to his capacity for wonder.

“And as I sat there, brooding on the old unknown world, I thought of Gatsby’s wonder when he first picked out the green light at the end of Daisy’s dock. He had come a long way to this blue lawn and his dream must have seemed so close that he could hardly fail to grasp it. He did not know that it was already behind him, somewhere back in that vast obscurity beyond the city, where the dark fields of the republic rolled on under the night.

“Gatsby believed in the green light, the orgastic future that year by year recedes before us. It eluded us then, but that’s no matter—tomorrow we will run faster, stretch out our arms farther. . . . And one fine morning——

“So we beat on, boats against the current, borne back ceaselessly into the past.”

I have to admit, I tear up a little whenever I read that–it’s just so fucking beautiful. What’s interesting is that when we read that, we know what the green light is, but it’s hard to describe, because it’s different for everyone.

For Gatsby, it was Daisy–but more than that, it was the dream of what it would be like to be with her. It was the pursuit of Daisy. That was his green light.

What’s sad is that for so many people in the post modern world, there is no green light: it’s all entertainment, sucking up the honey as we dangle between the monster and the bottomless pit.

I’ve been lucky enough to see my green light recently, and if my experience means anything, it’s not just knowing the end goal (which for me has always been to earn my living as a writer, author, and thinker).

No, the green light is seeing the path–the realization of what you have to do and knowing you possess the ability to do it. That’s the green light. What Gatsby must have seen after Wolfsheim took him in and he started making money–when he could see the path to Daisy laid out before him.

For those of you who’ve found it, you know exactly what it means and how Gatsby felt.

For those who haven’t, don’t give up–the green light is what makes life worth living: not the glory or pleasure we feel in our moments of triumph, but the pursuit of that triumph, the path and the journey it takes to get there.

Today’s Nugget

Sleep elixir: 2 tablespoons Apple Cider Vinegar, 1 tablespoon honey, hot water to mix. Drink it right before bed–it will knock you out! Then maybe tonight in your dream state, you can find that green light.

Thanks for reading! Cheers!

About The Author: Jay Scott


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