Give It Up

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Giving it up, so that you never have to give up. Give up anything that doesn’t add value to your life. Give up anything that creates the conditions for those heteronymous entanglements that end up owning you. I’ve been downsizing ever so slowly for two years now, but it wasn’t really brought to my own attention until a friend made it explicit to me in conversation about minimalism. Usually the concept is reserved for anti-consumerist life-styles. I see it as something more concretely concerned with existential clutter in all aspects of life, that runs contrary to dominant technocratic-industrial world views that encourage rampant individualism and its corollary instrumentalism. Despite great advantage afforded humanity against oppressive systems, and systematic oppression – not to be underestimated – it has come at great cost. It has essentially displaced, dislodged, literally ripped humanity from the rich fabric of worldly engagement.

Minimalism in all things! No grandiose sentiments, gestures, features, appliances, houses, embellishings of whatever kind! Abundance is best discovered in trivialities.

In his The Malaise of Modernity, Charles Taylor makes the point explicit:

Modern freedom was won by our breaking loose from older moral horizons. People use to see themselves as part of a larger order. …. But at the same time as they restricted us, these orders gave meaning to the world and to the activities of social life. The things that surround us were not just potential raw materials or instruments for our projects, but they had the significance given them by their place in the chain of being. The eagle was not just another bird, but the king of a whole domain of animal life. By the same token, the rituals and norms of society had more than merely instrumental significance. The discrediting of these orders has been called the “disenchantment” (reference to Weber) of the world. With it, things lost some of their magic. (The Malaise of Modernity, p. 5)

The result? People have lost “a heroic dimension to life. People no longer have a sense of a higher purpose, of something worth dying for” …or living for! Those grand gestures of life and love that transgress borders of convenience, sensibility, and efficiency! Taylor doesn’t simply side with those who demonize individualism (indeed he is not contra-individualism per se but only a species of it), but addresses modalities of inauthenticity brought on by its scathing momentum. Instrumentality, perverse relativism, and political apathy, what comfortably aligns with what I call active inertia, are the malaise of the modern age. Deep ecologists seem also to be onboard in a BIG way, orienting their moral sensibilities in due différance to the – this – dominant world view which has ushered in criticism for adopting the very dichotomous narrative that mischievously characterizes the object of their discontent. But I beg to differ. ( 😉 ) Subverting a paradigm of meaning is, in fact,  devoid of significance in abstract definitional terms; i.e. it is but an eclipse of meaning. For as Derrida would say, textual meaning is produced via certain heterogeneous features. My point? All meaning, textual, personal, social, educational, is situated. Nothing is adrift eyeing an abyss of non or unorientation. Individualism is inauthenticated by (s)elective amnesia which vanquishes any sense of existential crisis.

Some people call the millennials and post-millennials the “generation of entitlement” to contest the debase and self-indulgent dispositional state of a people for whom struggle and despair is a stranger. Emancipated from socio-political and economic oppression, one is not lost or found in the fold of social living, affording them the “luxury” of choices that speak more loudly to a set of concerns tied to their own individually designed orientation in life. Their sole responsibility? To be the best damn version of themselves! Society provides the human and tangible resources to attain personal self-actualization, but isolated, alone, such that forever do they struggle to purchase (for everything is “purchased” now) the materials to design a bridge to connect them with, to, others. Bridges, even these, are, however, not made to last. Materials are subpar, because they’re acquired cheaply, and hence easily interchanged, replaced, with little burden or cost ( 😉 ).

Taylor’s acknowledgement of a nonetheless powerful underlying moral paradigm is worth mentioning. For, as he says, “no matter how debased and travestied” this modernized form of individualism is, “the moral ideal behind self-fulfillment is that of being true to oneself” for which there is an authentic version and authenticating mechanisms which speak to “a higher mode” of being, which he is careful to distinguish from that which one simply or merely happens to desire or need. For Taylor, this requires siding not with boosters or knockers of the modernized paradigm of self-actualization, nor still with some kind of trade-off in terms of a middle-ground position. No. He says: “What we need is a work of retrieval, through which this ideal can help us restore our practice.” Long story short, humanity suffers from dislocation; we need to locate ourselves intermixed in the dialogical network, nurturing, cultivating thereby an expansive, fluid sense of identity that neither drowns beneath the weight of otherness, nor evaporates amidst celestial abstractions. This will require having the conversation; acknowledging the dialogicality of human engagement, and hence the existing horizon of significance. What does this mean? Well, one could live a perfectly ( 😉 ) autonomous life guided by her own reasons, and still shy away from authenticating practices when these speak not to a sense of self-identity. For authenticity is not just a case of appealing to those tools of rationality (sorry Kant! You’ve all heard the joke: Immanuel Kant, but he did try! 🙂 ), as a disenfranchised self, out-of-tune with one’s comportment in the world. But nor does authenticity indulge narcissistic tendencies endorsed by pseudo subjectivism; i.e. all positions are equally acceptable so long as they are “truly” my own. Taylor speaks to the “moral sources outside the subject [that speak in a language] which resonate[s] within him or her”, or “an order which is inseparably indexed to a personal vision” (Sources of the Self. The Making of the Modern Identity). Hence, authenticity entails an aspect that lies beyond the scope of autonomy, namely, a “language of personal resonance” (The Ethics of Authenticity: 90). One may be autonomous (Kant again) and yet remain inauthentic when this way of living fails to express a person’s self-understanding.

So where does that leave minimalism? I think of minimalism as subverting the symptoms of Taylor’s Malaise of Modernity. For if individualism, relativism,  and instrumentalism are the modalities that aid and abet this malaise, then the brand name for that antibiotic prescribed en masse as a cure for the discontent it inevitably spreads,  is consumerism. I leave it to you to connect the dots, and Socratic-like make myself scarce!

So, I shall continue to parade my humanity in a modality of despair (not to be confused with melancholy, depression, or negativity), and if the perhaps more self-indulgent, jump to criticize for a mis-fit, dwarfed narrative, that I am lowly, degenerate, and/or self-victimizing, there’s ample room in the “world” for them to seek their own self-affirmation ignoring mine, and me, altogether.

If you want to learn more about minimalism and what steps you might take and how this might change your life, click here: Minimalism: A Documentary About the Important Things and to meet the Minimalists, click here The Minimalists.

 

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RIP Olymbia Marangou

The prognosis was grim. I remember the precise moment when the truth of what was earlier known rudely pushed itself unto me. I was being dropped off at the hospital (a new tumour), irritability turned antagonistic as I fought to rejoin that blissful world of denial. Later tears met with accusations. Who greets tears with such animosity? Who harbours such disdain for “parading grief”? Strange how triggers work. That day we had our own grievances to address, and these shipwrecked any chance for ontic embrace. But that’s the point, isn’t it? Anguish, loss, death, comes to us all (the penultimate banality), but my grief is my own, viscerally experienced as if unique to me, resentful of dense propriety that arrogantly calls me to compose myself! But those moments, subtle as they were at the time, are like memories in a time capsule that ornately embellish the creative process of meaning-construct. For it is after all as I artfully engage life that the constituents of meaning find voice. Trepidation meets and enamours ruinous tranquility through life’s turnings.

Today Olymbia passed away. Three years into her grade 4 Glioblastoma brain cancer (GBM), outliving her prognosis by 2 years. It was Christmas 2014 when I noticed (we all did) Olymbia had changed – she seemed off, not herself. All of us gathered – a party of 40 – at Ket’s home in celebratory mode, Greek-style! Marc reconstructed the bird with his usual artistry. We girls busied ourselves with cooking, and serving, with chiding laughter accompanying us as we moved through the rooms. A row of generations set the table, finding Olymbia at the further end, tucked away in a corner, quiet. Quiet!? Well that was just not Olymbia! She was always centre-stage, dishing out orders, making sure that we girls, especially us, were on top of things! But not today, not ever again.

My hair follicles knew best of my mother’s discontent. Hair tightly pulled back into a ponytail bore the markings of slightly slanting eyes. A stop on the way to school at Olymbia’s – we all walked to school together – and that menacing ponytail was to become a swinging bush hanging long across my back. Thankful was I! It remained our secret, never shared with my mother. And as secrets do, endorsed a loving connection. Our families were one family. Our moms best friends, us kids roughly the same age, grew up as cousins, siblings really. Olymbia was the driving force behind this great, expansive family. She welcomed everyone, even if she did not always appear welcoming! 🙂 She was a mother to me.

Not versed in Stoic literature, Seneca, Rufus, Epictetus were no strangers to her. “Κόρη, that’s it”. Her meaning, however elliptical, is not far off from the words of Seneca: “Sometimes even to live is an act of courage.” “True happiness is to enjoy the present, without anxious dependence upon the future, not to amuse ourselves with either hopes or fears but to rest satisfied with what we have, which is sufficient, for he that is so wants nothing.” I can also hear these words echoing in my ear as she’d have occasion to frequent them: “᾽Αντε να γαμ… ο μαλάκας απο δω χάμω!” There’s something about the flamboyant Greek manner prone to such phraseologies that turn profanity endearing. In essence her meaning is reflected in Epictetus’ words repeatedly endorsed throughout the ages: “Other people’s views and troubles can be contagious. Don’t sabotage yourself by unwittingly adopting negative, unproductive attitudes through your associations with others.” And later in life, she’d realized, especially after becoming ill, what she perceived to be the narrowness of her youthful endeavours. I think this is nicely expressed by Rufus: “wealth is able to buy the pleasures of eating, drinking and other sensual pursuits – yet can never afford a cheerful spirit or freedom from sorrow.” She seemed eager that I see the foulness of such ways, that I’d invest in what truly matters: family. And so it is left to us, all the kids (Pits, Ket, Andro, Nico, me, Marc, Blaine, Meagan, Kristina, Nick, Mitchell, Mason, Thomas, Kalianna, Anthony, Kris and Kim)) no matter the distance that separates us, to keep the candle burning that shall always unite us as one family.

In our month together we’d sometimes burn the night oil. She’d become reflective, mellow, and her thoughts turned to her children. Of Andro, since I can remember remained constant was her wish that he find a “good woman” to care for him…like a Greek woman knows to! 😉 “Ketty…that one…she’s the sensitive one.”  But she also endearingly spoke of her as “a little chatter-box” (πολυλογού), a quality that our lovely Kristina has inherited…perhaps upgraded! 😉 “Liza…well she is like me…if we don’t fight one day I think she doesn’t me love me.” She hardly spoke of her grandkids beyond the usual logistics. But what was there to say that her eyes did not. She adored those kids: they were her life! As the weekend rolled round she worried that my partner would feel neglected (Greek women are not to neglect their men! 😉 ) Άντε κόρη, που είναι ο καλαμαράς, ο μαλάκας; Πήγαινε τώρα να του φτιάξεις κανένα φαΐ! And we’d laugh, and laugh! But that’s how she was: caring, and brutally honest, but darkness would turn light, for sentimentalities were not to have the last say. Did I mention Marc and Blaine!? She’d say: “Those girls don’t deserve such men!” And again, we’d laugh and laugh. But she meant it too. Her son-in-laws were the absolute best men. But as I’m sure they’d agree, that’s a gesture of reciprocity that began with her. My bro! Well she had much to say about him too. “Kαλό παιδί ο Νίκος μας!” She wanted confirmation that he was loved and appreciated!

She is one of those people that affected many lives. So many people will have to seriously adjust to her passing. Resilient that woman was! But Stoic-like she appreciated and loved life, but was adamant not to bend to the tragedies that life had in store for her…though…she did suffer….as anyone who wants to live and has so much to lιve for does.

She would want us to be strong and live by example. For as Margaret Atwood said: “In the end, we’ll all become stories.”

I love you, Olymbia mou! Καλή αντάμωση!

Full Disclosure

Fragments (shattered beauty)

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Girl Before A Mirror – Pablo Picasso

Certainty is a buffer

Death linearly conceived is fortified with delusions of immortality

Be the Derrida to my Levinas. Adieu. (Cheating death.)

Proclamations are lamentations on steroids.

Memories are the devil’s handiwork (Kierkegaard misunderstood)

Ecstasy. A fine drug (the illegal Heidegger)

There is darkness where only your shadow calls. (Being-there)

Words are like notes in a musical score; it’s only music when played (inertia)

When a disconnect is existentially cemented horizons of another dimension find you waving a virtual adieu to the disparaged. (fermenting Victor Eremita)

Silence is the master of ceremonial debris. Anything can be its master and come out smelling like roses. Authenticity is often odious

Eyes are often a gateway to home. Peer deeply but recognize a dam when you see one (thievery gone awry)

I believe in nothing. I am nothing. There is nothing. But nothingness is so vast

Profundity is often succinctly expressed; the depth of which requires careful elaboration.

It’s been said “Expect nothing for I have nothing to give”. That’s actually a lot right there! Just not what you expect.

Suffering without insight is like a baseball bat swinging out of control

 

 

 

 

 

A Bad Rap

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Self-love: shrilling embrace

Laying bear one’s existential plight is neither a self-indulgent exercise in victimization, nor is it beholden to pessimistic world views. It is a concrete aestheticized rehearsal of lived life, a subversive form of entry into the human condition. It bears the merits, and indulgencies, of artful communication, advocating and yet simultaneously subverting through the cultivation of clairvoyant intercourse. Intimacy of readership is quintessential to extrapolating the truth.

Says Nietzsche in the 2nd Preface to his Gay Science:

It seems to be written in the language of the wind that brings a thaw: it contains high spirits, unrest, contradiction, and April weather, so that one is constantly reminded of winter’s nearness as well as of the triumph over winter that is coming, must come, perhaps has already come…Gratitude flows forth incessantly, as if that which was most unexpected had just happened – the gratitude of a convalescent – for recovery was what was most unexpected. ‘Gay Science’: this signifies the saturnalia1 of a mind that has patiently resisted a terrible, long pressure – patiently, severely, coldly, without yielding, but also without hope – and is now all of a sudden attacked by hope, by hope for health, by the intoxication of recovery.

 

Mankind’s problem, “was not [is not] suffering itself, but that there was no answer to the crying question, ‘why do I suffer?’…The meaninglessness of suffering, not suffering itself, was the curse that lay over mankind”. Hence, one could argue it is suffering over suffering that is unique to the human condition. Does this invite existential melancholy as the default state? Is the Gay Science a parody of gaiety? Shall we lay in wait as that patient lion ready to pounce upon her prey: happiness? Does the meaninglessness of life divine a life more wretched than death? Are we left to choke on our pessimism, faithlessness, cynicism, and despair? Don’t despair ( 😉 ), probably not…but certainly also, yes.

It has so often been levied as a criticism that Nietzsche’s philosophy, not just the man himself, suffers from melancholy. That ultimately the world is a callous, uncaring, unwelcoming place. Well might as well add “solitary, poor, nasty, brutish, and short”, since this echoes the state of nature as described by Hobbes more than anything Nietzsche had to say.

I don’t smooch with positivity. He’s just not my type. But I will be damned if ever I lay with negativity either. Both bastard children, twins actually, to Narcissus. You know… the one transfixed by his own beauty and died enslaved to the indulgencies of self-love! Cripple! Had he only looked out beyond the riverbed to discover himself in the eyes of his beloved he might have limited hell on earth to other people (insert Sartre here).

…to be continued….

Alarmed? Annoyed? Appalled? Indignant? Read on: Why the Long Face, by Adam Roberts

 

“And it feels so good to feel so bad. And suffer just enough to sing the blues”

Faithfully Yours

Simone de Beauvoir, said as a young woman, “I would willingly consent to sacrifice everything for the one I loved, but I would never want to exist through him—the sentimental blackmail which pushes women to see in the one they love someone designated to carry the burden which they are too weak to bear…. The truest love is expressed by Goethe: ‘I love you, is it any of your concern?'” Ach, for an exquisite mind to be hijacked by a needy heart! Hence, “Beauvoir was very much of her own mind when she entered into her “pact” with Sartre, and those critics who would view her as a doormat are very much mistaken.”  Sartre, her “grand intoxication”, did not muscle his way in, he didn’t even worm his way in – both would be demeaning to Sartre, as well as to Simone. Outward appearance muzzles truth, leaving the dynamic of the inter-personal comportment camouflaged, except, I suspect, from those closest to them, who likely would have witnessed an uncanny symbiosis of spirits. “They each discovered in the other the intellectual equal they had so sorely been missing”, a point often confiscated by that perennial patriarch that would have Simone’s so-called intellect take the backseat to her uncompromising love for Sartre. Intellectually in sync, engaged in gripping discursive mode to-gether, cultivating their voice in what might be described as a “spiritual conversion” (Foucault), they lay awakened to their comportment to their truth, the truth, naked, exposed, lucid, and always, viscerally exhilarated, ecstatic. There is no backseat here. There is discomforting comfort: home. Is it any wonder that the words “faithfully yours” applied to Simone and Sartre?

Familiar with their sexual experimentalism, fidelity here speaks to their camaraderie as sparring partners. No idealization is to be detected, not for any universal or normative use anyway. Simone has been dragged into commentary on what sometimes appears as a witch hunt to subvert anything anti-feminist, so much so that sometimes it tends to emasculate her, our, form in the process. Simone did not give up marriage and children for Sartre, that was an early-on realization. She did not put up with his affairs, neither were conventional, and their sexual escapades were no exception. She did not sacrifice her own work to editorialize his, even though I do recall a testimonial suggesting that she’d laboured over his work a great deal and he’d not read a single work of hers. (I could have this wrong, though). She did not love him more, he did not sacrifice less. To see it in this light is to see it as just another story held hostage to patriarchal statutes. Him versus her, acceptance versus rejection, more versus less, strength versus submissiveness, and more. These polarizations just won’t do because Simone was not a conventional mind, and her womanhood was not conventionally won. Indeed, it is a mark of her virility and incremental intrepidness that she grew into her womanhood in deference to The Other. Uncontested love is only a lowly inauthentic expression of agency when freedom is taken in absolute and often negative postulations of either being free (from) or not being free (from). Yet, Simone in her The Ambiguity of Ethics, narrates different types of unfreedoms, which move far beyond such banal either/or qualifiers of agency. I won’t elucidate them all here, but it is worth pointing out that she understood freedom in terms of taking ownership for one’s existence in the world. Basically her point, in agreement with Sartre, is that there is no essential nature of man, no universal features that define the nature of being human. We are all oriented in the world as the unique architects of our own lives, and the quality of our lives lies in the manner in which we engage with others in the pursuit of our freedom. The most authentic form is authored by the “passionate man” who though adventurous is not selfishly pursuant of life’s longings (my expression, likely not one she would endorse) “willfully ignorant” of how every undertaking unfolds in a human world affecting others. Don Juan would be such a man, for he (Where does he figure in Kierkegaard’s Seducer? 🙂 ) hunted for sport only to mobilize his ego-centric desire for conquest, caring not for the hurt inflicted upon his victims. Contrarily, the “passionate man” does not set her sights on the manifestation of said goals. It is, rather, in acknowledging the universe as a complex of means and obstructions along the path to the attainment of such ends, that she is to simultaneously keep her existential distance. ‘Love, happiness – freedom comes in recognizing there will always be a distance between us and these things yet aspiring to them anyway.’ “To be free is not to have the power to do anything you like; it is to be able to surpass the given towards an open future; the existence of others as a freedom defines my situation and is even the condition of my own freedom. I am oppressed if I am thrown into prison, but not if I am kept from throwing my neighbor into prison.” Now though all of this is more socio-political than the original point of overture, I suspect Simone might concede that they are intertwined nonetheless.

Was Simone the lesser of the two? Only if she denied her existential comportment alongside Sartre in the negotiation of her pursuits, and failed to see for fear of acknowledging her precariousness in the world and take ownership of it. Her anti-conventionalism, political activism, sexual flamboyance, and scholarship speak in her favour. Did she perhaps get lost in the idolization of external constructs, could this have been her idolatry of Sartre or love? If you’ve read the Second Sex the nausea might overcome you before you utter your first objection. Still, we don’t all live as we purport to, and no one lives their lives quite as poised as our dictates. And yet, the vulnerability, the personalized comportment of Simone’s literary works may suggest that she lives as she earlier wrote: “I accept the great adventure of being me.” Perhaps then, only she and Sartre can really know of the intricacies that drove their spirited intermingling as deeply connected, sparring adversaries, and who, if ever, was the more….or lesser of the two.

 

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The tragic beauty of being intertwined!

 

Simone de Beauvoir’s Early Diaries

Happy Birthday, my son!

My boy with the golden heart! The one constant throughout these 18 years has been your incredible good nature. And though Kant might not value utmost one naturally inclined to goodness, I suspect he’d never met the likes of you to be confounded daily by the mysterious beauty of such a disposition. I continue to be amazed by your unflinching sense of justice and good will. Through the years the stark divide separating right from wrong has given way to the more grey, but never overwhelmed or overturned, for you all remains as delightfully colourful. I admire and envy this in you, Thoma mou! May all your days find your disposition unchecked.

A wonderful young man of intelligence, strength, and yes, all the markings of a spirited 18-year old seeking adventure, checking your limits (and sometimes ours!!!  😉 ), still looking, searching for that which will stir you into an awakening of sorts. For though more adept to this world than our Kalianna and myself, you too are as viscerally and intellectually intense; the banal, the everyday, the plain and regular, will not suffice. You shall settle not for the ordinary. Don’t! Don’t settle my son! You deserve the extraordinary.

December 18th, 1999 you were born and changed my life forever! From This Moment became our song. Happy birthday Thoma mou! (κσσμμ) Και στα 150!

From this moment, as long as I live
I will love you, I promise you this
There is nothing, I wouldn’t give
From this moment on

The big little things…

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The Love of Helen and Paris by Jacques-Louis David (oil on canvas, 1788, Louvre, Paris)

It’s the little things. A penetrating glance. A stream of light. Preparing a meal. Writing a blog. A child’s smile. The joy experienced is owed not to the glance, the streaming light, the meal or the child’s smile. For just as words can fall on deaf ears, so too can sights fall out of focus. Everything that is anything is something because we make it so. You see beauty in the creases of the rose-pedal, are mesmerized by the droplets that like a suspended bubble sit indifferent to the raging wind on a leaf, are overcome by the lines that delicately caress your lover’s eyes, watch as a child’s hand slowly fastens the outreaching arm of his mother. The world suddenly slows down and grows quiet. It is as with the reverence spoken in silent humility upon entry into the House of the Lord.

Beauty, joy, happiness don’t belong to the world for they can not be discerned by the spectator’s lens. I do not stand and face the world. I am always in-the-world. Here I become intermingled with the being of the “objectively present” not related as two separate and distinct entities, but affectively I take in the world with caring attention and personal investedness and I see everything that’s anything!

Yet, the joy of living is also in the big things! Propose marriage. Call in the name of an inspiring mentor to a popular radio show. Organize rallies to celebrate great teachers. Call an employee and remind them of their invaluable work. Throw a surprise birthday party! Pay it forward. Launch a thousand ships, whatever it takes, for that face, his face! Menelaus launched his fleet of 1000 strong to reclaim the beautiful Helen of Troy, but I suspect the minutiae of the everyday was deadly silent. So though grand gestures sometimes do speak louder than everyday micro-gestures; micro-gestures are often discerned, creeping into and antagonistically fraternizing with, what doesn’t get said leaving the other to agonize in the known unknown. So sure, launch a thousand ships, send me a care package when I’m sick from the other side of the Atlantic, reach out despite circumstance of uncertainty and restraint, be there unconventionally but be here everyday. Nothing is ever totally in step, but frequent and unatoned disharmony leaves everyone dis-synchronized and essentially out of reach, rendering grand gestures disingenuous and pitiful. Be what you say, say what you do.

 

My Little Girl…

Kalianna is a “silent force” (σιωπηλή δύναμη) to reckon with. She is no nonsense, quite deliberate in making her disposition known. Young still – she can get it wrong – she stands as a mirror, kind and sincere to the caring, and brutal to the rude and pretentious! Look out world! Complicated, my little girl…transfixed in her vision of how things ought to be, temporarily “out of order” when the world stubbornly refuses her. Protector, advocate, nonconformist, ruthlessly loyal, and yet surprisingly thoughtful.

We are more than mother-and-daughter, we are girl-friends. We share clothes, watch our girlie shows together, sing, dance, share …..share a lot …. She is more like me than I’d like, for I know she will toil and despair. And enduring your child’s suffering is nothing any parent does gracefully. I know I don’t. Not always self-assured, and stumbling as she finds her way, it is my hope that she will see all that I see in her. (tears)

Today 15, happy birthday my beautiful child! The world, my world, is richer by far with you in it!

 

A Psalm of Life

Here’s Longfellow’s A Psalm of Life. “Life is something more than an idle dream”, said he. “Be a hero in the strife,” had my thoughts linger to Heraclitus. But also to Joseph Campbell: “If you can see your path laid out in front of you step by step, you know it’s not your path. Your own path you make with every step you take. That’s why it’s your path.”

Version 2
Hope

 

Tell me not, in mournful numbers,
Life is but an empty dream!—
For the soul is dead that slumbers,
And things are not what they seem.

Life is real! Life is earnest!
And the grave is not its goal;
Dust thou art, to dust returnest,
Was not spoken of the soul.

Not enjoyment, and not sorrow,
Is our destined end or way;
But to act, that each to-morrow
Find us farther than to-day.

Art is long, and Time is fleeting,
And our hearts, though stout and brave,
Still, like muffled drums, are beating
Funeral marches to the grave.

In the world’s broad field of battle,
In the bivouac of Life,
Be not like dumb, driven cattle!
Be a hero in the strife!

Trust no Future, howe’er pleasant!
Let the dead Past bury its dead!
Act,—act in the living Present!
Heart within, and God o’erhead!

Lives of great men all remind us
We can make our lives sublime,
And, departing, leave behind us
Footprints on the sands of time;

Footprints, that perhaps another,
Sailing o’er life’s solemn main,
A forlorn and shipwrecked brother,
Seeing, shall take heart again.

Let us, then, be up and doing,
With a heart for any fate;
Still achieving, still pursuing,
Learn to labor and to wait.

— Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

 

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