We are here to witness the creation and abet it. We are here to notice each thing so each thing gets noticed. Together we notice not only each mountain shadow and each stone on the beach but, especially, we notice the beautiful faces and complex natures of each other. We are here to bring to consciousness the beauty and power that are around us and to praise the people who are here with us. We witness our generation and our times. We watch the weather. Otherwise, creation would be playing to an empty house.
According to the second law of thermodynamics, things fall apart. Structures disintegrate. Buckminster Fuller hinted at a reason we are here: By creating things, by thinking up new combinations, we counteract this flow of entropy. We make new structures, new wholeness, so the universe comes out even. A shepherd on a hilltop who looks at a mess of stars and thinks, ‘There’s a hunter, a plow, a fish,’ is making mental connections that have as much real force in the universe as the very fires in those stars themselves.
“For what I fear comes upon me,
And what I dread befalls me
I am not at ease, nor am I quiet,
And I am not at rest,
but turmoil comes.”
Book of Job 3:25
Suicide is now the biggest killer of young men in Britain. Three young males take their own life on average every day. The latest figures show that the suicide rate rose significantly in 2011 with 4,552 men taking their own life out of a total of 6,045 people. The highest rate was in the male age bracket 30-44. Suicide in this group accounted for more deaths than road accidents, murder and HIV/Aids combined.
CALM (March, 2013)
It was ever thus.
“A direct comparison of American male war deaths under the age of 35 during the official years of the Vietnam War, 1961 – 1973, with American deaths from suicide among the same age group, shows there were twice as many suicides (101,732) as war deaths (54,708)”
Kay Redfield Jamison (Night Falls Fast)
Now that, surely, deserves a real and meaningful ‘war on terror’.
Post·script ( /ˈpōs(t)ˌskript/
And some time make the time to drive out west
Into County Clare, along the Flaggy Shore,
In September or October, when the wind
And the light are working off each other
So that the ocean on one side is wild
With foam and glitter, and inland among stones
The surface of a slate-grey lake is lit
By the earthed lightening of flock of swans,
Their feathers roughed and ruffling, white on white,
Their fully-grown headstrong-looking heads
Tucked or cresting or busy underwater.
Useless to think you’ll park or capture it
More thoroughly. You are neither here nor there,
A hurry through which known and strange things pass
As big soft buffetings come at the car sideways
And catch the heart off guard and blow it open.
Seamus Heaney RIP
(1937 – 2013)
Midway upon the journey of our life
I found myself within a forest dark,
For the straightforward pathway had been lost.
Ah me! how hard a thing it is to say
What was this forest savage, rough, and stern,
Which in the very thought renews the fear.
So bitter is it, death is little more;
But of the good to treat, which there I found,
Speak will I of the other things I saw there.
I cannot well repeat how there I entered,
So full was I of slumber at the moment
In which I had abandoned the true way.
“His manual of heaven and hell lay open before me,
and I could perceive my nothingness in this scheme“
“What is the greatest experience you can have? It is the hour of the great contempt.
The hour when your happiness, too, arouses your disgust, and even your reason and your virtue. The hour when you say, ‘What matters my happiness? It is poverty and filth and wretched contentment. But my happiness ought to justify existence itself.’ The hour when you say, ‘What matters my reason? Does it crave knowledge as the lion his food? It is poverty and filth and wretched contentment.’ The hour when you say, ‘What matters my virtue? As yet it has not made me rage. How weary I am of my good and my evil! All that is poverty and filth and wretched contentment.’
Man is a rope, tied between beast and overman–a rope over an abyss…What is great in man is that he is a bridge and not an end: what can be loved in man is that he is anoverture and a going under…I say unto you: one must still have chaos in oneself to be able to give birth to a dancing star. I say unto you: you still have chaos in yourselves.
Alas, the time is coming when man will no longer give birth to a star. Alas, the time of the most despicable man is coming, he that is no longer able to despise himself. Behold, I show you the last man.
‘What is love? What is creation? What is longing? What is a star?’ thus asks the last man, and blinks.”
In the week that the National Youth Council for Ireland published their study confirming the saddening scale of youth emigration from the island of Ireland over the last number of years I was reminded of Beckett’s line from All that Fall:
“It is suicide to be abroad..but what is it to be at home?… A lingering dissolution.”
I read once that when when Mary Robinson became president of Ireland in 1990, one of her first actions was to light a lamp in the kitchen window of the official residence to acknowledge the many millions of Irish then living overseas. An act of informed symbolism, Robinson’s inspiration was a poem by Eavan Boland called The Emigrant Irish.
It is a political and social shame that we must continue to tend to those lamps, light them anew. But for those who have left, fled that lingering dissolution out of choice or more clearly of late from sad necessity, they flicker. While families and communities wait, with a burning patience, for a return.
Until then let us bring our lamps to the fore that we might remember on other generations who took the same journey abroad, that their possessions might indeed become our power.
EAVAN BOLAND The Emigrant Irish
Like oil lamps we put them out the back,
of our houses, of our minds.
We had lights better than, newer than
and then a time came, this time
and now we need them.
Their dread, makeshift example.
They would have thrived on our necessities.
What they survived we could not even live.
By their lights now it is time to
imagine how they stood there, what they stood with,
that their possessions may become our power.
Cardboard. Iron. Their hardships parcelled in them.
Patience. Fortitude. Long-suffering
in the bruise-coloured dusk of the New World.
And all the old songs. And nothing to lose.