Ella Wheeler Wilcox
Laugh, and the world laughs with you;
Weep, and you weep alone.
For the sad old earth must borrow it’s mirth,
But has trouble enough of its own.
Sing, and the hills will answer;
Sigh, it is lost on the air.
The echoes bound to a joyful sound,
But shrink from voicing care.
Rejoice, and men will seek you;
Grieve, and they turn and go.
They want full measure of all your pleasure,
But they do not need your woe.
Be glad, and your friends are many;
Be sad, and you lose them all.
There are none to decline your nectared wine,
But alone you must drink life’s gall.
Feast, and your halls are crowded;
Fast, and the world goes by.
Succeed and give, and it helps you live,
But no man can help you die.
There is room in the halls of pleasure
For a long and lordly train,
But one by one we must all file on
Through the narrow aisles of pain
The resilience of the human spirit never wanes but increasingly glows with an effulgent light. As long as there is a day, a tomorrow, a future, we will face it and do so with inexhaustible ardor.
Life pushes us in many directions, asks us to make sacrifices, it gives as much as it takes, but it continues to give as long as we have the one most precious gift of all, life. Though some shoes are more worn and weathered, lacking luster and polish, making the walk painful, difficult, and a humbling experience, still the triumph is that those of us walking in these shoes, continue to walk until their soles are scraped raw and their bare feet are calloused.
In their honor, we stand with gratitude for their sacrifice, for bearing the burdens of life that sometimes is unfathomable, and we extend a conscious mind with a helping hand to show them that they are not alone; that we stride together in times of difficulty and celebrate in times of joy; that their footprint continues to impress our minds long after they walk out of sight and we will cherish this memory of once walking together.
This is what the holidays mean to me. When I see the greatest in need with tattered clothing and a tarnished visage making an effort to smile despite their circumstances, standing with brittle shaking legs, and grasping their own shoulders to conserve warmth that rapidly escapes them. If they continue to stand, what can possibly knock me down and defeat my spirit?
When everything is taken away from you, even the cloth off your backs rendering you bare against the elements, the instinct is to curl up into a fetal position to cover yourself…until a kind stranger walks by with a blanket, lifts you up to your feet, and wraps you with the warmth of love. Every day reminds me to be that stranger, and especially the holidays when the disparity of joy and neglectful sadness are at their greatest. But I can be better at this…I can always be better…and so I strive to be.
I don’t need to compare myself with others and use that to modulate my sense of kindness. As long as I give until the point that I myself have the same needs, then I can never stray too far away from love, because the intimacy of the experience will always humbly remind me that, I too, am human; I am a part of this beautiful panorama called existence and my life is a spectacular speck of light on this unending reel.
what gravity tears my chest open
to reveal a lover’s beating drum?
for i swim wounded and bleeding
in the seas of eternity
to find one i have sworn to love
in millennia past when i first
saw the design of my soul
reflected in your eyes
and from our union
my purpose was born.
the cruel contortionist
fearful of love’s divinity
weaves our tragic parting
soon you were stolen
from my woeful sight
leaving me in darkness.
I followed you
to the great abyss
returning each time
with a borrowed cloak
and you in another;
displaced in time
and separated by distance
as we wander lifetimes over,
seeking what we were
cursed never to find.
however our destiny was written
with the embers of the stars
by the one delicate hand
that draws our fate intertwining,
and even should time forbid
this cosmic embrace
our divine affinity
defies all impossibility
i have been asleep
under the spell of the grand illusionist
drowning in the sea of my own blood,
do i wake gasping for that holy breath
to save this cloak from ruin
because i have found you
nature inspired by our resolve
rebels against the tyranny of law:
our distance bridged by sympathetic space
our collision fixed by merciful time
here we are, two bodies, one soul
peering through our effervescent cloak
to see the reflection of our same design
our contrast renders fascination that
ignites the spark of a tender passion
what is a soul mate
but the mating of one soul?
strip away our flesh
and drain our blood
burn the veiling cloak
with our celestial fire
let our essence shine
through to all worlds
and the mending of our soul
be the destined reunion
In the darkest of night I thought my soul to be unassailable; that no matter what happened, whatever opposition I should face, I would be invulnerable. However, the light of dawn reveals my injured soul as a shattered kaleidoscope, broken into myriad save for the love that lends me its breath.
Jalal al-Din Rumi
A certain person came to the Friend’s door
The Friend answered, “Go away. There’s no place
for raw meat at this table.”
The individual went wandering for a year.
Nothing but the fire of separation
can change hypocrisy and ego. The person returned
walked up and down in front of the Friend’s house,
“Who is it?”
“Please come in, my self,
there’s no place in this house for two.
The doubled end of the thread is not what goes through
the eye of the needle.
It’s a single-pointed, fined-down, thread end,
not a big ego-beast with baggage.”
rally the carrions to the labors of men preserve
for as in their gnawing rots the roots of rife
so too the piling wastes decay into the earth
thus creating the cycle that we know as life
thieves of time that rob men blindly of their youth
from the darkness and through ages until darkness
leeches like wool siphon through the blood of fools
feeding on their breath until they lie breathless
men share no less the floundering fate of stifled fish
that which suffering is muzzled by the gelatinous air
in stillness the restless renders the body fleshless
but its seeds of contagion with time blooms in splendor
the swoons of pestilence sway to natureâ€™s resolve
when oneâ€™s intoxication venomous to anotherâ€™s survival
her wrath is justly swift and sweeps from above
as a disarming plague inoculating the frenzied rivals
then come the invisible army of feeders
to grind away the remnants of existence
a pulp that again into the cycle enters
i look at the sky and wonder why
the sun never refuses to rise
its rays dancing across the horizon
slowly fading my memory of its motion
then bows down to greet its partner
stepping closer their bodies gather
in the ridge of light and darkness
gently swaying to twilightâ€™s caresses
the heavens journey with arduous resolve
oblivious to the futility of its revolve,
fueled by the fiery passions of eternity,
seething from immolation its celestial body
yet eschews the pain of flesh-born affliction
because it is immune to the human condition
no greed, malice, envy, or pride to speak of
only the sublime nature of incorruptible love
as the blood that surges through our veins
transfuses life without claim of selfish gains
or the spirit that awakens our inanimate shell
to rise against the assault of the sleepless veil
i peer at the stars and ponder afar
aeons from one breath of each pulsar
how time drapes our existence in finite
obscuring our senses with limited sight
here lies peacefully a man
resting deeply in earth’s hands
leaving life with the same anonymity
as when before he entered its calamity
his face is eroded with years and smiles
yet, he is faceless
he was a son and perhaps a brother
still, he remains nameless
who are you unknown stranger
seeking the fringe to linger?
who are you mystery man
lurking in the shadowy lands?
you speak, but your words fall short of sound
you cry, but your tears never quite strike the ground
you love, yet its depths are but hollowed-earth
you die, the world is unflinched as when you birthed
what if i had your life and when i should die
would i have lived or would it all be a lie?
tell me that love unrequited survives undiminished
and that loneliness is the true path of an aged sage
let the will of the stoic numb my blistered heart
even if it should fail from unbearable dis-ease
that i would continue to walk in the land of men
with invisible footprints weathered by the sands
The Glass Prison
Every day of every waking moment I am steering the wheel of life and staring through the windshield of tomorrow. I am the commander of my own fate and captain of an effervescent soul that dwells deep beneath the dullness of my flesh and blood. In reality, I am behind the wheel of a vehicle that seems to drive itself; a machine flowing with innovation and though it has never betrayed the trust of my command, I cannot say with certainty that I am in absolute control for at any given moment, the reigns allotted by this beast may be stripped from my grasp then I would be bound by the mercy of its mechanical conscience. There is nothing I can do: no words to have the power of sway, and there is no escaping these walls of steel that shine with the splendorous glee of a masked tomb.
Often I dwell in this false sanctuary, not by choice, but because simply it allows me to advance from one point to another, more quickly. Yet, I do not readily feel that this is the future of travel when I look through its windows to see the incongruity and inefficiencies of such behemoths. Rumbling, rusting, rattling, and ranting its mechanical mantras. It is a machine riddled with chaos.
I often take notice of other kindred souls whom, for the most part, have surrendered to the same mode of transportation and as I behold their pristine state of obliviousness to my curiosity, I am captured by their sense of senselessness. With discreet fascination I keenly take to observing how many tasks a human being can effectively handle at once before crashing to a startling halt while hiding behind a transparent barrier that shields them from the worldâ€™s ridicule. When they are within the beast, they know nothing of the outside world. Their loud screams of anguish diminished and disappear into silent ears. Their tears race down their cheeks and fall like dew drops off the morning leavesâ€“fresh, salty, and saturated with melancholyâ€“but still, driven into the masks of oblivion.
They are among the discontent and others will pass them without a hint of care, a scent of distress, or an acknowledgment of apathy because they too have been consumed and, even as they live, they are being digested in the womb of the beast. Their physical resemblance remains intact but a part of them, unseen, is being devoured and all that remained was a vacuous stare, void of humanity.
Do they know that a vast world exists outside of these isolating walls? Nevertheless, these speed demons plow through the lines as a rampaging juggernaut heedlessly bent on destroying everything in its path and those on the other extreme crawl like slugs leaving a slippery trail of provocation that one could easily slip into madness if caught in it. And thusly, the rhythms of life continue to beat from the eagerness of dawn to restless dusky evening. Life stops for no one and anyone. It discriminates neither for status or wealth. Nor shall it give weight to the debt of conscience or the density of good will. Death stops for no one and anyone.
The incident occurred in the early hours of the morning while everyone was still hazed by the mists of the nightâ€™s grog. Rays of muted yellow smeared on the horizon giving just enough light to see the immediate surroundings but everything beyond this perimeter was a mesh of dark watercolors. Beads of it fell from the sky and heavily impacted my vehicle like liquid hail. I could barely see a short distance ahead to navigate and only by the guiding red lights of those in front of me was I able to cautiously proceed balancing between the limit of my control and the regulated speed of others around me. This pace was still well below advisory under normal conditions but it was not hard to conclude that due to the unusually inclement weather most had decided to wage their battles in the reverie of their dreams with their heads still planted on their pillows. Not everyone was afforded this luxury, however, so treading the storm was something of the unavoidable. While caught in the entanglement of these thoughts I inadvertently did not notice the regiment of cars ahead of me had gradually decreased in pace until only now, after the canvas of the morning scene seemed to be completely inert, that it had occurred to me something had gone wrong, somewhere. These things were somewhat commonplace so most already had this scenario in their store of anticipation while I remained bound to blind optimism and hoped that this morningâ€™s commute would not deviate too much from the established routine but, as I come to find out, this morning, held only a marked resemblance in expectation, which manifested itself quite defiantly against all other mornings.
A sea of crimson flooded the surroundings as brake lights sequentially activated and clamor of life came to a dead stop; leaving only the sound of the crashing rain to bombard our safe houses. People seemed confused, frustrated, and maddened by this inconvenience. Their heads shook to designate disbelief, some threw their hands up in the air to outwardly express frustration, and the majority of others continued at their business, bobbing their heads to a silent rhythm, speaking vigorously into their devices, unphased by the disruption. What possibly could have happened? What had gone wrong? Did someone fall at the mercy of the beast? The epicenter must be a ways ahead since, for as far as the eye can see, a continuous stream of rouge wound endlessly into the horizon. The lack of activity echoed an eerie silence that pervaded the vicinity. Life had given itself pause. It showed no concern for the promises of punctuality and neither a care for those coming or those going.
Everyone now is synchronized to the same beat and they are given an opportunity to wake from their mental slumber to see for the first time what they had missed every morning that preceded this one. The stillness was broken by the anticipated sirens that came roaring like a thousand trapped souls crying out for help in unison. Screaming to the peak of their intensity for they knew of the divide that could not be transgressed and their efforts were futile against the mighty partition that captured their voices and tucked it away in the annals of oblivion.
The shoulder of the road provided them with access to progress and many more beyond the first followed in its trail as a funeral motorcade and we had no choice but to stand by and watch its grim unfolding. What is this morbid fascination that we feel compelling us to look in the face of death? Do we esteem ourselves in the comfort that if we are able to identify the enemy, to see its form in anotherâ€™s lifeless eyes before we enter the arena that we may have a better chance of defeating it? These accidents, however ordinary or commonplace, I believe are of a divine nature. It is a sacrificial grace that in order to bring pause to our lives and force an introspective reflection blood must be withdrawn and delivered to the gods in the belief that the life of one man taken can save a boundless number of others. In this hiatus, we cross an event horizon toward the promise of redemption.
The dawn hours wore away quickly giving to a dull grey ambiance complimenting the persistent showers that clanged against the steel cages like pennies. Brake lights flickered on and off in the distance which indicated that life was to resume where we had left it. Engines sputtered, darker gaps in the field began to light up and revealed itself as displaced outlines of its actual figure amidst the barrage of rain, the commotion of life once again continued as an orchestra returning from intermission to replay an eternal sonata, and we are the audience entranced by its performance.
As we collectively approach closer to the wreckage it was as if the air was physically thicker and the added friction made it more difficult to pass. Our hearts raced, our breathing controlled by our emotions, and an instinctive spotlight guided our eyes across the traces of debris that led to the eventual end of the beastâ€™s journey. From the remains and trail of guts that it had left behind one could assemble a recreation that it was sickened with madness and in its fervor, lost control, rolled over numerous times with irreversible momentum, shattering all of its eyes, rupturing its organs, and crushing everything inside as it impacted the wall of the freeway and sustained a collision course into the pillars that held up an overpass, then slid into a nearby ditch. What was most disturbing was a childâ€™s car seat that laid upside-down soaking the rain water from the pavement. I couldnâ€™t make out if a child was still strapped in but judging from the neglect of the emergency response crew I trust that if such a child existed it would have been accounted for long ago and their focus had already shifted to extracting the rest of the passengers from ravaged creature.
The beast laid still, without a breath, without a sound: hollow, bare-boned, and vulnerable to the elements. The fragmented shards of glass scattered the scene as though heaven was crying and its tears had crystallized upon impact with the earth. My thoughts frantically darted with curiosityâ€¦â€”â€what heinousness was done to provoke it so?â€ â€”â€how did these poor souls entangle themselves in the brambles of this tragedy?â€ â€”â€if their lives were lost would anyone know?â€ â€”â€would they care?â€ â€”â€if they disappeared into the depths of the earth would anyone notice and take pity?â€
They cried quietly, stared with fascination, shook their heads, empathetically reached out, and that was all they can do. The rain poured from a bottomless carafe and refused to give despite human tragedy.
The voices of the rescue crew resoundedâ€¦
â€œHis body is submersedâ€¦â€
â€œHeâ€™s pinnedâ€¦we canâ€™t risk further damageâ€¦â€
â€œâ€¦we need to do it now!â€
The morning landscape suddenly froze, its colors washed away by the downpour, and its texture eroded revealing an underlying scene.
Suddenly, I was in the hallway of my office, surrounded by partitioned rooms with large windows projecting its inhabitants from a distance. It reminded me of reptilian museums that encased helplessly dependent creatures in glass cages, stripping them of dignity, and exposing their concealed rage for the world to judge. They didnâ€™t seem to know I was there, observing them. A quick stir of commotion spurred in one of the rooms and caused a small gathering to take place. Their faces were distraught with worry and the message delivered acted as an enervating wave that swept the area, collapsing the ceiling of excitement down onto the bystanders and pinning them against the floor. Moments later the crowd dispersed and each participant reluctantly returned to their posts.
The fluorescent lights one by one flickered and extinguished leaving a gradation of darkness in its path.
The rain ceased. A deadly silence took the place of the calming white noise and the echoing of my thoughts rippled as an unwelcome disturbance.
A light emerged from the abysmal darkness and reflected a familiar reality. I was in my room, unusual as it was tidy yet losing to the invasion of dust. The bed was made, pillows neatly arranged, clothes hung orderly and unused. The posters on the wall still defying gravity, the trophies that lined the dresser standing proud and basking in the fleeting moment of its glory. It was quite evident that life had left this room behind some time ago. I approached the window, which now was frosted with age and barely translucent, then with all the strength I could muster, broke through the binds of deterioration and lifted the dull glassy frame to reveal another reality behind it.
A soothing voice of a mature woman sought its way into my consciousnessâ€¦
â€œSir, can you hear me?â€ â€”â€Youâ€™re going to be okayâ€¦just try to relaxâ€¦â€
â€œDo you know where you are?â€
â€œYou were involved in an accidentâ€¦but youâ€™ll be okay now.â€
â€œMy name is Anne. If you need anything at all, just push this button to call me. Iâ€™ll be right outside your room.â€
Her shadow pierced through the sterile air as she exited the room. Though unable to move my head, I could still see her from the corner of my eyes through a large glass window paneâ€“a teasing transparency that stood between me and another human being, separating our distinct realities, yet, mutually revealing both worlds that are, at once, within reach and completely isolated.
My voice struggled with a stubborn laziness and could not carry its own weight. In the sterility of silence, a simple realization emerged from the atmosphere of confusion. It is not distance that separates us, but a glass prison–one that most of us have unknowingly entombed ourselves within long before our physical death. We live in it, we breathe inside it, and we only see with our eyes the world beyond, that is, if we even bother to look.
What is the point? Why struggle to survive when submission to death seems more rational given the suffering? Wherein is the reward for a life of virtue and how does it compare to a life of excess? At the root of all suffering is there a profundity of ascension, enlightenment? What, then, is the meaning of life? Albert Camus inquires about the very essence of our existence, that is, our raison’d'etre, and asserts that the most “urgent of questions” and all other philosophical quandaries become ancillary.
The dilemma is that most of us are caught in making habitual “gestures” required of existence and in the process we are not conscious of the futility of life. But it is the case that the “stage sets the collapse” as the automatonic ardor grows weary in time, and ultimately, this leads to the tragedy of awakening. Camus draws on the tale of Sisyphus, who was sentenced with the eternal punishment of fruitless labor for his disobedience when the underworld had called for his return, but he defiantly clung to the warmth of life. The torture lies in the utter hopelessness of the task and the tragedy is only exposed in those rare moments when Sisyphus returns from the summit to reclaim the rock. In this moment, Camus states that by the same token of lucidity meant to translate his torture, at the same time it “crowns his victory.” That is, his realization of the task’s meaninglessness empowers him with a fate divorced from the one assigned to him by the gods. The reign of the deities at once dispelled, and Sisyphus is free even while he remains in the chains of bondage. Camus concludes, then, that Sisyphus must be [imagined happy]. He poses the central question, “is life absurd?â€ and if so, does suicide then become the most significant philosophical question for man to consider?
While his mode of logical reasoning is sound, it still is defeated by a major flaw that fails to encompass all matters of circumstance. Instead, he solely focuses on the aspect of futility and disregards the possibility for some kind of substance to emerge from man’s struggles. Camus brings to light the “daily agitation” to evince the uselessness of enduring the “mechanical life.” But in this state, he affirms is the moment of truth leading to the awakening of the consciousness of absurdity, in which we face a question that may threaten our very will to live. While it is true that daily life, especially in the modern society seems all too pointless when viewed from a grandiose perspective; it remains, however, to the satisfaction of the individual to endure such monotony and still find in it the motivation to proceed.
Perhaps the tragedy lies in the carrot that dangles in our faces and forces us to obediently chase it without question and only with pure instinct; thus, in doing so, we lose control of our destinies and ultimately become bound to a fate determined by a mastermind of sorts, from whom the carrot is projected and given its illusive nature. It seems more rational to admit that while we do sometimes succumb to the allure of life, it still remains within our own faculties to steer ourselves away from temptation and lead a sovereign life free from absolute rulership.
For this same reason, revolutions naturally take place against oppressive bodies of government because it violates the quintessential nature to be free, in thought as well as in body. If either becomes constrained, the discomfort inevitably leads to a rebellion when a certain threshold is crossed. Our struggles sometimes can be minute, trivial, and dismissed but it is the amalgamation of these that bring out of the darkness, the light of meaning.
A world of absurdity is meaningless and irrational, thereby void of intent since this implies purpose and this presupposes a deterministic warrant of justification. Camus wants to expose a life that can be lived without appeal, and asserts that the belief in the absurd qualifies the quantity of experiences to be of greater value than that of its quality. Thus, the absurd-conscious lives life to the maximum simply because he is aware of his life, his revolt, and his freedom.
Further, Camus states “where lucidity dominates, the scale of values is useless.” One can agree to the point as Camus suggests, if two men were to live the same span of life, the net quantity of living is constituted by their awareness of the finer moments within that span. This cannot be derailed; however, lucidity is not necessarily a mutually exclusive faculty since one can be aware of life’s futility yet still tether himself to a body of values as a basis for life.
This is not exactly an appeal to life, but rather a set of tools at his disposal to foil the absurd obstacles that life is to bring him. If it were not purely for survival, then in this secondary sense, man can find meaning even in the challenge itself, without the appeal of a higher destiny, as a child can endeavor to build sand castles near crashing waves without ever minding the futility of the task. They are rather engrossed only in the challenge at hand and the rest are fanciful ruminations of a distant philosopher.
This then brings into focus the question of fate. Is it a matter of men or a matter of gods? With Sisyphus, Camus is inclined to assign dominion of fate initially to the gods but when Sisyphus is awakened he expels the gods from their thrones and becomes a slave without a master, and all matters of the gods now become that of men by virtue of inheritance. It is, thus to Camus, that Sisyphus while still condemned to the same fate, is imagined to be happy because he is conscious of his tragic fate.
It seems strange that Camus arrives at such a conclusion given that, if one is conscious of his own tragedy, then he would be more disposed himself of such a fate; rather than attempt in ignorance to perpetuate his existence. Camus wants to empower Sisyphus, as with all men, dominion over his own destiny, and as such they could overtake the fate of which the gods have originally assigned. This is to say that an imagined power, something purely incorporeal in nature, could manifest and override an existing reality that is much more visceral and commanding.
This ersatz presumption of power simply is a coping mechanism for the ineptitude of man to conquer his fate, whether it is death or the eternal punishment of the gods. Realizing that one is imprisoned does no more to release one from it than a prisoner who schemes of his escape than falls into a slumber wherein he executes his fanciful machinations and succeeds; yet, detrimentally, it further seals oneâ€™s fate in an imaginary world where one is free, when in fact he is not. Moreover, it does not translate to him overpowering his captors because no matter how free he claims himself to be from a mental reference, the solidity of the prison remains unaffected and very much effective.
Why must Sisyphus be imagined happy? It is because the opposite is too hopelessly tragic to fathom and doing so may thrust one into the pandemic pit of eternal despair. Absurdity is not in the mechanisms of life itself but in the denial that such futile sufferance exists, and that one must be subjected to it.
Dao de jing
Everything is here in me. There is no joy greater than to discover creativity (cheng) in one’s person and nothing easier in striving to be authoritative in one’s conduct (ren) than committing oneself to treating others as on would oneself be treated.
Dao de jing
Cultivate it in your person,
And the character you develop will be genuine;
Cultivate it in your family,
And its character will be abundant;
Cultivate it in your village,
And its character will be enduring;
Cultivate it in the state,
And its character will be flourish;
Cultivate it in the world,
And its character will be all-pervading.
Dao de jing
As soon as everyone in the world knows that the beautiful are beautiful,
There is already ugliness.
As soon as everyone knows the able,
There is ineptness.
Determinacy (you) and indeterminacy (wu) give rise to each other,
Difficult and easy complement each other,
Long and short set each other off,
High and low complete each other,
Refined notes and raw sounds harmonize (he) with each other,
And before and after lend sequence to each other–
This is really how it all works.
It is for this reason that sages keep to service that does not entail coercion (wuwei)
And disseminate teachings that go beyond what can be said.
In all that happens (wanwu),
The sages develop things but do initiate them,
They act on behalf of things but do not lay any claim to them,
They see things through to fruition but do not take credit for them.
It is only because they do not take credit for them that things do not take their leave.
Dao de jing
Exemplary persons (junzi) concentrate their efforts on the root, for the root having taken hold, the way (dao)will grow therefrom. As for filia and fraternal responsibility, it is, I suspect, the root of authoritative conduct (ren).
Dao de jing
It is upon misfortune that good fortune leans,
It is within good fortune itself that misfortune crouches in ambush,
And where does it all end?