Lessons From Poems: Man Has Created Life

Nor dread nor hope attend

A dying animal;

A man awaits his end

Dreading and hoping all;

Many times he died,

Many times rose again.

A great man in his pride

Confronting murderous men

Casts derision upon

Suppression of breath;

He knows death to the bone—

Man has created death.

Death by William Butler Yeats

This simple, twelve-line poem by W. B. Yeats strikes at an important truth about mankind which is stated in the very last line of the poem, “Man has created death”. Meaning because we are conscious creatures who need to understand life, we have separated the natural occurrences of life into labels and ideas, one such label being that of death. By labeling death and being aware of death we have also given birth to dread and its opposite, hope.

Other animals aren’t conscious as human beings, which is why Yeats says:

Nor dread nor hope attend

A dying animal

They don’t understand death which is why they don’t dread it like humans do and neither do they understand possibilities which is why they don’t hope as humans do.

This idea of manmade problems has been prevalent for centuries. The Stoics believed that people suffered more in imagination than they did in reality. This results from being conscious. We can actively control how our life is shaped and what we can achieve, but we are also aware of what isn’t in our control and what is the natural course of existence. Many anxieties and fears stem from consciousness because we aren’t dumb animals without awareness. Our mind lingers in the past or in the future, areas which we have no influence on. At the same time, consciousness allows us to overcome those anxieties and fears by focusing on the present moment and improving the current situation. This is what I take from the following lines:

Many times he died,

Many times rose again.

Each time we bow to our fears, a part of us dies, but each time we overcome a fear, we are reborn. Rise again as a better version of ourselves.

However, such growth only comes from acceptance. Accepting that death is inevitable and acting regardless of that eventuality. Regardless of your fears and anxieties, regardless of pressure and stress. This is how a man becomes great.

A great man in his pride

Confronting murderous men

Casts derision upon

Suppression of breath;

A great man is someone who knows death but doesn’t fear it. He is willing to confront it and do the right thing even though it may result in him losing his life. “Confronting murderous men” could be taken literal and we can applaud the honorable individuals who do so or, it can be taken as symbolic and applied to life, confronting life, rather than cowering/suppressing from the unknown and unpredictable aspects of life.

The opposite of death is life. If man has created death, then he has also created life, his own life. Meaning that because we are conscious animals, we may be burdened by our knowledge of death but we are also relieved by our knowledge of life. Specifically, our ability to give meaning and purpose to our own lives which can overshadow death. And in doing so, find a sense of comfort with the eventuality of death because each individual has the opportunity or perhaps even a responsibility to take on the dread and hope associated with being alive.

 

Poem: The Changing Self

As the world changes with technology, so does the concept of self,

the real you is pushed to the background,

replaced by a digital self which is fixed and filtered,

shared only with ideal proportions which match what you wish you looked like,

encouraging the mind to imagine a different you,

a you whose edges have been buffed out,

whose nose has been fixed,

with touched up smiles,

to match the fake projection of yourself.

 

All for the likes,

for the fake love, self or otherwise,

the false care,

the double-tap of insecurity,

the lack of likes makes self-loathing thoughts,

the abundance of likes reinforces the fake self,

the self is driven by ego to be liked,

the self which overshadows the real you,

the real self which craves disconnection,

so it can connect with itself, with you.

 

But the buzzing phones,

the bright screen,

the technology to connect,

keeps the self from connecting,

and with time,

it creates a hollow self,

but the heart notifications hit like a heroin needle,

the instant dosage of gratification,

and for that moment,

this thing, this self on the web, is happy,

so are you,

as you evolve into this blend of muscles, tendons, blood, zeros and ones, wavelengths, and coding formula.

 

Poem: Man, The Creator

Before the self-hate, self-love, self-care,

before the self-awareness,

before the self-consciousness,

man was part of nature,

an animal without dread or hope.

 

The initial drop of awareness sent ripples throughout the mind,

ripples that colored the world,

vibrant with pain and suffering,

magnetic with death and destruction,

dynamic with love and care.

 

Simple realities of life now labeled,

now dreaded, now hopeful,

now feared, now craved,

detached from nature.

 

Man stands head and shoulders above the other beings,

the head constantly looking over the shoulder,

look for death,

his creation,

man is God.

Poem: My Heart Beats

Someday I’ll quit the race and listen to my heart,

someday my heart’s beat will silence my desires,

someday I’ll commit to myself,

someday I’ll move to the woods.

 

The patient rhythm of nature,

matches my own beating heart,

the warm blood, the warm rays,

the deep inhales of cool wind,

the red roses, the violet petals, the deep green grass blades,

no concrete gray,

the stars above, fresh dirt underneath, me in between,

a man, an animal, a combination of the two halves.

 

For now, amongst the honking sounds,

amongst the curses, amongst the hustle,

amongst the smoke, amongst the drunk,

amongst the paper, amongst the ego,

my heart beats softly, pleasantly,

knowing that its counterpart is out there,

like a lost lover,

knowing that someday it’ll be reunited,

waiting for common sense to seep into my mind and limbs,

until then, with patience, my heart beats.

 

Poem: Burning Bridges

In between chaos and order hangs a bridge made of old wood and old rope,

the planks creak and moan under the pressure of footsteps,

back-and-forth man walks,

hovering between the two possibilities.

 

Tipped towards the dark by forces outside of him,

the chaotic unfolds the center and he falls apart,

his world, his mind, his heart consumed by anarchy,

which turns to arson,

burning away the innocence,

burning away the old bridge,

its charred remains fall into the abyss,

the whites of mans eyes look out through the darkness that shrouds him,

the heart is lost,

the limbs move in an erratic manner,

striking whatever is in its way,

transferring the pain, the hate, the chaos to whatever he touches,

he goes from a being to a man, to an animal and now to an It.

 

Behind the eyes the embers of order burn,

less so than before,

they search for the savior, thinking that the savior is out there,

somewhere,

for the disturber of the balance was external,

mistaken in this belief, the lost are never found.

 

The Spiritus Mundi aimlessly walks inside of man,

waiting to be held, waiting to be guided, waiting to become the guide,

in this disorder, what is required isn’t logic,

reason doesn’t build the bridge again,

the beast with the lions body must be tamed and upon it,

the mans head is placed,

and through such a harmony, a fusion of man and beast, the bridge is remade,

through such surrender, balance is restored.

 

But it’s easier said than done, like all things,

no one wants to let go of chaos,

it serves as an out,

a way to let go of responsibility,

a way to blame,

a way to survive,

no one wants to admit that the darkness is comforting,

that those thoughts are pleasing,

happy in the emptiness,

lost in the chaos,

happy in the chaos,

why be born again?

why restore the order?

why go through the pain?

 

Senseless beasts roam around,

intelligent fetus’ crawl around,

erratic and thoughtful,

misery and miserable,

only see a few who are beings,

those few are constantly struggling to stay whole,

as all around them is fire,

burning bridges,

and the flame is so alluring.

 

 

I’m A Son Of A Bitch If I’ll Be Defeated By The Everydayness

I have felt hours go by without knowing what happened to them. Hours that turned into days which became months and looking back, there have even been years which I cannot recall with any significance apart from perhaps a single event or two.

I recognize the illness that plagues my mind after reading the Moviegoer by Walker Percy. I had recognized it before too when I came across Proust and I’m sure I recognized it prior to that but I cannot remember now. This makes this illness particularly tricky to deal with because the mind aids the sickness.

This illness is the everydayness of life. The mundane moments that go unremembered as my mind and my thoughts dwell in a hopeful future where I will find myself amidst the ruins of Ancient Rome or traveling the bullet train in Japan along with some friends or seeing the great art pieces of Michelangelo with my own eyes for these moments can cure the everydayness and leave lasting memories of being alive which I can fondly recall later on. Or so I imagine them to be.

But as Proust said, the real voyage of discovery consists not in seeing new sights but in looking with new eyes. Similarly, Walker Percy puts forth the idea of The Search. It is not new worlds you should seek but rather see the beauty in the everyday that can and should leave a mark on your life.

To search is to be in wonderment of life, all of life.

The search is what anyone would undertake if he were not sunk in the everydayness of his own life.

To become aware of the possibility of the search is to be onto something. Not to be onto something is to be in despair.

Walker Percy further explains the idea with regard to movies.

The movies are onto the search but they screw it up. The search always ends in despair. They like to show a fellow coming to himself in a strange place — but what does he do? He takes up with the local librarian, sets about proving to the local children what a nice fellow he is, and settles down with a vengeance. In two weeks time he is sunk in everydayness that he might just as well be dead.

Walker Percy warns one not to fall into a pattern of known motion. The daily, weekly and monthly routine that makes you feel like just a piece of metal on a conveyor belt, being moved from one spot to another. Instead, he urges you to be observant, to see the changing world around you through which you have been unconsciously drifting. So, to observe is to search. 

People have a different way of sticking themselves into the world. It is a small thing to him but not to me. It is nothing to him to close his eyes in New Orleans and wake up in San Francisco and think the same thoughts on Telegraph Hill that he thought on Carondelet street. Me, it is my fortune and misfortune to know how the spirit-presence of a strange place can enrich a man or rob a man but never leave him alone, how, if a man travels lightly to a hundred strange cities and cares nothing for the risk he takes, he may find himself no one and nowhere.

Without the active struggle to see your own surroundings as something worth seeing and exploring, you might find yourself blind and unaware regardless if you are standing in front of an old library or the Colosseum. If you don’t know how to see properly, moments will simply drift in and out of you and leave behind just the faintest recollections of themselves. Life will be just a dull light instead of the blinding brilliance that it can be. 

For he is no more aware of the mystery that surrounds him than a fish is aware of the water it swims in.

The search is there for one to enrich their own life. It’s a selfish ambition, to make your own life one of awe and beauty.

No, I do it for my own selfish reasons. If I did not talk to the theatre owner or the ticket seller, I should be lost, cut loose metaphysically speaking. I should be seeing one copy of a film which might be shown anywhere and at any time. There is a danger of slipping clean out of space and time. It is possible to become a ghost and not know whether one is in downtown Lowes in Denver or suburb Bijou in Jacksonville. So it was with me.

This is an active effort to find unique experiences in everyday life. To go out of your way to talk to the theatre owner or the ticket seller as Percy said. Or to give conscious thought to the movie seat or the aroma of the theater. The little things like that matter otherwise life is a blur. Think about all the time you spend in traffic just going from one place to the next. If you can find some kind of beauty or uniqueness in those mundane moments, then you can enrich your life.

Yet it was here in the Tivoli that I first discovered place and time, tasted it like okra. It was during a rerelease of Red River a couple of years ago that I became aware of the first faint strings of curiosity about the particular seat I sat in, the lady in the ticket booth…as Montgomery Clift was whipping John Wayne in a fistfight, an absurd scene, I made a mark on my seat arm with my thumbnail. Where, I wondered will this particular piece of wood be twenty years from now, 543 years from now? Once as I was traveling through the midwest ten years ago I had a layover of three hours in Cincinnati. There was time to go see Joseph Cotten in Holiday at neighborhood theatre called the Altamont — but not before I had struck up an acquaintance with the ticket seller, a lady named Mrs. Clara James, and learned that she had seven grandchildren all living in Cincinnati. We still exchange Christmas cards. Mrs. James is the only person I know in the entire state of Ohio.

To walk through life blind and deaf seems like an awful waste of potential. Knowing that I have been blind and deaf at different points in my life is a painful reminder of wasted opportunity. However, in between that time, in between that space where I can remember to search, where I can actively observe and find the beauty in the mundane and know that everything in nature has its own value if I were to remove my own prejudices and biases at least for those moments I can fight the everydayness that drowns so many and keep the search alive and with it my curiosity and imagination. Thanks to Percy’s novel I am reminded again of the life around me and thanks to him I will be reminded of the fact that sometime in the future I may be momentarily defeated by the everydayness but it will never be a permanent defeat for the search is always there, waiting for you, ready to enlighten your world. 

But for now, I make the same vow as Percy:

Nevertheless, I vow: I’m a son of a bitch if I’ll be defeated by the everydayness.

Poem: Out of Sight

The flowers bloom out of sight,

the sun rises out of sight,

the sun sets out of sight,

the gathering clouds, the soft rain, the waving grass blades,

nature’s call,

out of sight, out of sight.

 

She sits by herself, her

shawl wrapped around her, comforting

cotton material, what

she needs is the comforting touch of her fellow being, but

pride is damming, also

the lack of awareness is prevalent, as

man goes about their day.

 

Men with diamonds around on their wrists,

women with diamonds around their necks,

her eyes avoiding her own reflection,

as people double click the pictures on injustice on their phones,

sipping on their drinks,

while she thirsts for aid.

 

Too many animals walking around, not

enough humans, too

many concerned about themselves, their

own looks, their own bank account, their own desires, not

enough who can empathize with the desperate others, even

though everyone knows the desperation, and

in their own time of desperation craved another’s compassion.

 

“How are you?”

“Are you okay?”

She talks to herself,

answering herself,

practicing a smile,

to match that of the surrounding people,

so she feels part of the crowd,

and not alone,

as she sits alone,

out of notice,

out of care,

out of sight,

wandering animals around her.