Monday, December 5, 2011

We Die In Earnest

What is our life? A play of passion,
Our mirth the music of division,
Our mother's wombs the tiring-houses be,
Where we are dressed for this short comedy.
Heaven the judicious sharp spectator is,
That sits and marks still who doth act amiss.
Our graves that hide us from the setting sun
Are like drawn curtains when the play is done.
Thus march we, playing, to our latest rest,
Only we die in earnest, that's no jest.

What really is our life? Is it, as Sir Walter Raleigh said, just a "short comedy"? Or should we complain with MacBeth that:

Life's but a walking shadow, a poor player
That struts and frets his hour upon the stage,
And then is heard no more. It is a tale
Told by an idiot, full of sound and fury,
Signifying nothing.
Having come, along with dozens of other big name philosophers, to the conclusion that life has no significance beyond itself (Life, and everything else for them was what they called "absurd.") Camus declared:

"There is but one truly serious philosophical problem, and that is suicide. Judging whether life is or is not worth living amounts to answering the fundamental question of philosophy."
He's right. Job's wife recognized this also, and told him that in the face of what seemed to her to be cosmic injustice the only answer was to "Curse God and die." She meant, I think, suicide.

What we think our life is makes a bit of a difference in how we live it. Raleigh at the top of this post really wasn't talking half as much about his doctrine of what LIFE really is as he was poking fun at all of us for the half-hearted way in which we live it. But the two are related. And, as he reminds us, however we live and whatever we think it means, we die in earnest. If Camus and his fellows chose to kill themselves because that is what their philosophical ponderings drove them to, then their deaths would have been absolutely in earnest. They would have been fraught with all the angst and religious and political meaning that Camus et al denied really existed. Their deaths would have disproved the very basis and reason for them. But no matter. They would have been in earnest!

Now, I'd like to present a challenge to anyone who cares to take it up.

Over the course of this month, contemplate life: its meaning, the way it is done, how/why it ends, etc., etc., etc.. Then write a short (or not short) poem about what life is. Any form. Any approach. Any ideas. Anything.

Email them to me at my email address that is on the left hand side of my profile page. If you can't find that, my email is simply my name, with no dots or spaces, at hotmail dot com. I too will try to come up with something. Then, in the first day or two of next year I'll post your submissions.

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