A Northman's Reveries

A Northman's Reveries

 

William Saroyan, author of The Human Comedy, once observed, “Everybody has got to die, but I have always believed an exception would be made in my case.” There wasn’t; he died in 1981.
 
It appears no exceptions are made, though there are some wealthy types who are currently investing heavily in bio-engineering and cyborg technology in hopes of becoming the exception. Which makes me wonder if they have really thought through the implications of living forever.  As the Anglo-English novelist Susan Ertz (d. 1985.) noted, "Millions long for immortality who don't know what to do with themselves on a rainy Sunday afternoon." 
 
Admittedly, for many people the thought of not-being lies behind their fear of dying. To this, Mark Twain (d. 1910) offered a reasonable and realistic perspective: "I do not fear death,” he said. “I had been dead for billions of years before I was born and had not suffered the slightest inconvenience." Ah, the down-to-earth wisdom of Mark Twain! If we can just get past the idea of eternal extinction, it all seems rather minor. Think about it: You’ve been “alive” for what, 30, 40, maybe 70 years, compared to the four and half billion years this planet has managed without you? The universe itself is approximately 13.8 billion years old—we say approximately because back then there was no accurate way of counting days, the sun being created only 4.6 billion years ago—so we may safely conclude that the universe will probably continue on without our puny 70 or 80 years on earth. 

I prefer the thinking of the Stoic philosopher-emperor Marcus Aurelius (d. 180) who said it isn't death we should fear but not having lived. His Meditations still make for thoughtful reading 2,000 years later.

I suspect most of us come to his or her own position on the mortality issue, whether we frame it in words or just intuitively sense it, and in that way we make our personal peace with the entwined mysteries of life and death, and with our own enigmatic participation in that mystery. Here's mine (d: currently unknown):

 
                                         I Love Beginnings
 
I was born just a few hours before the new year of 1948. 

So, from the start, I have always loved beginnings.

And yes, I know the pre-packaging of time into "years" and "months" and "days" is contrived and artificial, 

based on an imperfect calendar no less.

(Leap year has always struck me as cheating.) 

Yet there is, I think, within our humanity this love of beginnings,

 for each holds the potential for renewal and reinvention,

 possibly redemption, and maybe getting it right this time.

The journey that is one's life has many beginnings and many endings—

it's not always easy to tell the difference--

and if I am granted a conscious dying, then I plan to greet Death 

with open arms, telling him, "It's okay. I love beginnings."
 


 

First posted: June 12, 2020

 

 

Lord, save me from my lower self,

from my petty, vengeful, vindictive self,

my angry, anxious, hurting
and hurtful self.

I know I'm vulnerable today--

I ask, protect me from myself.

 

 

 

 

First posted: February 14, 2020

 

 

Another day starting,

and glad he was still here to see it,

though some might not think it much of a life.

Nothing splashy, never made a lot of money,

never became president of the United States.

But then he’d never wanted to be president,

and money never’d been that important to him.

There’d always been enough.

 

He had the love of a good woman, three fine children,

and now grandchildren coming on like gangbusters—

his whole life he’d loved only one woman.

Oh, he’d been tempted, sure—Sadie at the supermarket, maybe—

but that was just another one of those silly-second dreams,

like being rich n’ famous, that maybe look good ‘til you think them through.

Certainly nothing you’d waste a lifetime chasing after.

 

Some things he regretted.

Wished he’d had more confidence, wished his father’d been more proud of him.

Yeah, that would have been nice.

Never could get the hang of this social media thing.

He and the wife were on Facebook so they could keep up

with the kids and grandkids.

Not much to share 'bout himself.

If people needed him, there was always the phone,

or they’d more ’n likely just drop by.

 

He’d always tried to be a good man, someone his children’d be proud of.

When he was gone, that’s probably how people would remember him:

as a good man, a decent man who cared about his family, his church and his community,

one to count on to help when help was needed.

At least he never made a fool of himself,

was never knowingly unkind to another.

 

He was now closer to the end than the beginning, he knew.

Hair thinning, body sagged.

Lacked the strength in his arms he once had.

Couldn’t run any longer—that’d surprised him one day—

legs just wouldn’t move like they used to.

But then life had slowed down, too.

Fewer places to run to these days.

 

Yes, to others it probably didn’t seem much of a life, he supposed,

but it’d been enough for him,

an honest life where he could look any man in the eye.

He’d be ready when time came to say good-bye.

 

Until then, he had another day to live, and best get to it.

He looked out on the early spring morning, nicely warming,

drank the last of his coffee and got up from the table,

silently kissed his wife’s forehead as she read the newspaper

(“That damn’d fool in the White House,” she muttered)

grabbed his cap and went outside to make his garden great again.

 

 

[First posted: November 17, 2019]

 

And now Sharpiegate!

C'mon, admit it: You're going to miss Trump when he's gone. W's Bush-isms weren't half as entertaining, and of course Obama with all his charisma and class, integrity and intelligence was no fun. It will probably mean the end of late night talk shows. Editorial cartoonists will need to apply for unemployment. It'll be the end of democracy as we've known it these past three years. Just reminds us to appreciate what we've got in the moment.

 

 

 

 

 

[First posted: September 7, 2019]

 

 

Send me out into another life
                lord because this one is growing faint
     I do not think it goes all the way

                      --W.S. Merwin

 

 

In W.S. Merwin we admired not only the poetry but also the poet.

Which unfortunately can't be said for a lot of poets.

So many couldn't live up to the beauty and profoundness of their own words.

But then, truth be told, neither can I.

Alas, I am better on paper than in person.

...which I suspect is why many of us write.

 

 

[First posted: July 15, 2019]