Thursday, February 28, 2013

The More Loving One


Looking up at the stars, I know quite well
That, for all they care, I can go to hell,
But on earth indifference is the least
We have to dread from man or beast.

How should we like it were stars to burn
With a passion we could not return?
If equal affection cannot be,
Let the more loving one be me.

Admirer as I think I am
Of stars that do not give a damn,
I cannot, now I see them, say
I missed one terribly all day.

Were all stars to disappear or die
I should learn to look at an empty sky
And feel its total dark sublime,
Though this might take me a little time.
--WH Auden

A few days ago an enormous moon rose through the branches of the trees. This moon was three trees wide, huge like no moon I've seen since early childhood in the woods of northern Minnesota. I understand why in the pantheon of early Ur, the moon god Sin was primary, and father to the sun god Shamash. Copernicus to the contrary, the sun is not the center of my human cosmos. The lights at night, when I'm blessed enough to escape the infernal glow of city lights, do more to draw me to wonder and speculation, to worship, than the brilliant noon day sun ever did.

At night, lying in cold grass, the stars invite me to expand; they remind me by their frigid glimmer of both the teenyness and the immensity of my warm human heart. Their light, I'm told, has traveled millions of years to get here, rushing the whole way. And yet when that light arrives it shifts gears, slows down near me, and beckons me to retrace its steps. Then smallness or largeness, my importance or insignificance, they mean nothing. I do not believe, as Auden seems to, that stars fail to love. The failure, if there is one, is our failure to answer their call to largeness of life, of soul, of love and of simple self sacrifice.

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