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.

 

Reflections On Why You Should Take The Hard Path

To yield to Resistance deforms our spirit. It stunts us and makes us less than we are and were born to be. (Steven Pressfield)

We are incomplete beings. We are a form of potential. We are unlike other animals in this sense. A lion cub grows up to be a predator. It doesn’t require will power to become what nature intended it to be. Nature didn’t intend for humans to be anything. It left that choice to the individual. Each individual has the possibility to transcend what or who they are at this given moment and realize their potential. What stands in the way is Resistance or themselves. The voice that pokes at your insecurities, tells you you’ve worked enough, it’s good enough, that pain is bad, that struggle must be avoided, that you can blame someone else for the way you are (parents, lover, children, society, gender, race, culture), the voice that gives you an out which you actively and consciously embrace. The voice that speaks when there is a decision to be made.

To be more. To do more. To become more. Or to stay what you are.

Take the easy way or the hard way?

Easy way brings pleasure right now and makes you feel good but the chains of comfort keep you from soaring, growing, moving, changing, becoming and it robs you of time. To not work and procrastinate. To skip the last set. To have that conversation later. This choice can take your possibility away, can take your potential away.

The hard way is to do the more difficult thing right this moment and do that every moment of your life. Wake up early, workout, be disciplined, routined, have those difficult conversations, sacrifice the immediate gratification, sacrifice the warmth and comfort, embrace whatever it is that stirs the thoughts of procrastination in your mind. That’s the way. That’s the path. The discomfort.

You know what the right thing to do is because you have done plenty of self-experiments throughout your life. Plenty of times when you chose the easy way which only left you with guilt and without fulfillment. Over and over the same acts are repeated and little to no growth is to be had. The change is simple as well. You’ve known the way the whole time. You’ve avoided it each time you chose the easy way and were left with regrets later on.

The path is hard. This is the way that growth happens. You become the possibility nature laid out for you. The enemy is resistance. The reality is the shortage of time. The goal is to self actualize. The path is hard.

Poem: Movement

Sprint if you can,

Jog if you must,

Sometimes you’ve just gotta walk,

One step in front of the other,

Leisurely,

Crawl if you can’t do nothing else,

inch by inch,

Onwards.

 

As both, the shadow of the rising sun and the setting sun wash upon you,

As the pale moonlight bathes you,

As complete darkness enshrouds you,

At the beginning, in the middle, at the end and beginning again,

Moving.

 

At the pace you can manage,

Every so often testing your limits,

Crawling to walking to jogging to sprinting,

The rhythmic strides and the stumbles go hand in hand,

Until the eternal stop,

The only stop,

Otherwise, life is made up of movement,

Slow and fast and the in-between,

Moving up towards the ups, moving down towards the downs, moving back up, moving back down, moving, moving,

Movement.

Poem: On To The Next

Endless,

the good shall pass,

the bad shall pass,

it’ll come again, go when it pleases, return without a notice,

but all of it shall pass.

 

Just as the rising of the sun,

just as the desire to hit the snooze,

just as the wave which gathers, again and again,

just as the comfortable thoughts of procrastination,

just as the mountain ranges beyond which are more mountains,

just as the cravings for pleasure,

endless, once more, forever, best to accept it all.

 

The foundation.

The insight.

The knowledge.

The awareness.

 

Just as a mothers love,

just as a fathers sacrifice,

just as a desire for more,

just as a need to be someone.

Always there, again and again.

 

Obstacles and resistance,

growth and change,

regression and mistakes,

cyclical life.

 

Tides come and go, washing on the shore, pulling with it some things, pushing with it some other, each instance is changed, each moment anew, each success temporary, each failure the same, on to the next, the next hurdle, the next craving, the next accomplishment, the next love, the next heartbreak, the next promise, the next letdown, the next laugh, the next cry, the next day, the sun rises, always and forever, prepare for the next start.

 

 

Poem: The Fragile Self

Fragile is the body that accompanies us,

flesh that can easily be bruised or torn,

bones which fracture and break,

organs malfunction, sometimes due to our own behavior and other times, it’s just the luck of the draw,

colds, fevers, headaches, stubbed toes, cancer, liver failure, peanut allergy, heart disease, chronic pain, bad backs, sore feet, toothaches, bullet wounds, kidney stones, arthritis,

just a list of reminders,

each thing evidence of our fragile nature.

 

The fragility doesn’t stop there, it’s not merely physical,

no, it accompanies our mental,

the mind that clings to fears of what-ifs,

the mind that clings to the afterthoughts of what could have been,

jealousy, anxiety, envy, resentment, eagerness, yearning, disappointment, adrenaline spike and dumps, endorphins rush and crash, sadness, happiness, discontent, disassociation,

the constant loop of emotions and feelings which keeping reminding man of how fragile, how childlike he is.

 

That’s all there is to it,

the reminder of how un-great man is,

daily reality check,

to keep the ego in line,

flesh, blood, bones, electrons, neurons,

just another animal,

and as Aurelius said,

man being an animal, he must get up and work.

Poem: To What Ends?

Everywhere man is in solitude,

hunched over, tired eyes, aching mind,

working the minutes away for some hopeful future.

 

To what ends?

withered bones, scattered ashes, fitted to a box,

to that end, we all slowly move,

inching on the conveyer belt,

the furnace blazes ahead,

the lucky ones feel its heat and see its light upon their skin,

perhaps they can change,

the unlucky ones go in blind, at once, right now,

the absurdity never hits them as they stand on the street corner.

 

We all meet the universal end,

the heartbeats but its life never reaches the limbs,

the limbs obey the slave mind,

which keeps the man hunched over,

for the mind is molded to obey as well,

and all there is left is to work,

as the hot blood grows cold,

as the sunsets perhaps for the last time,

working, working, working,

as if it matters at all.