If you’re a poet (in the traditional sense), you’ll look at the stars with a hint of melancholy and pen an ode to an imagined lover looking at them in a different city. You’ll write about how you share a mystical connection with her that transcends the boundaries of space, but sadly, not time. You’ll lace your verse with layers of metaphor until the heavens, the soil, the dying sun, your veins and your heart are all connected in a pulsing orb of lyricism.
But if you’re older and have arm-wrestled with fate until he broke your hand, or have grappled with experience until he left you with a sprained neck, you’ll laugh at the stars, knowing that though they look like white specks of dust scattered across a dark blue canopy, they’re abominations which will consume you with raging fire if you got close to them. You’ll howl at the crescent moon because you know she isn’t a slender mistress singing her night song, but a monstrosity that epitomises your finitude in the universe.
Imagine the sun, the planets and the comets and then imagine watching yourself from their places in the universe. You’ll realise that you’re as inconspicuous as a mote of dust flitting through an attic. And that’s the hardest pill to swallow, isn’t it? From ashes, we come, and to ashes, we return. And though we might think we’re trawlers of knowledge and goodwill snaking our way through aquamarine waters while the fingers of dawn caress us, we’re bland rowboats, struggling against the waves looking for that elusive marlin.
So, what is life’s meaning? Some find hope in religion; some in money; some in success; some in fame, and some in dreaming. But take one good, panoramic look at life’s shores, and you’ll see black sand and withered weeds. You’ll see obsidian instead of the pebbles and seashells you hoped for. Look up, and you’ll see an ashen sky polluting everything with acid rain. Most don’t wish to see this, and hence close their eyes while they walk, and daydream about rays of sunshine and halcyon days. They’d rather have their delusion than the truth and saunter. They’d rather have a false serenity grip them and write sonnets about transcendentalism.
A mystic might talk about walking that unites one with nature. Now, he would have convinced me of mystical unions with creation and oneself or ‘peak experiences’, as Maslow puts it, but such occurrences are never punctual. While walking in the mountains, I felt a hand of peace in my heart. I then returned a year later and lived in a small cottage in the mountains for twenty days. I spent my time reading books, listening to the aubade of the songbirds, climbing hairpin bends while music from a church nearby reached my balcony. All this and the cool breeze and the fireplace at night did nothing to my senses, and I craved for my apartment with its beige walls and dull coloured curtains.
Perhaps commercialism has killed off the aesthete in me. Perchance, I’ve grown so used to the sound of drilling and construction work, and to the sight of dust that I’ve become addicted to it. But I’m going to argue by saying that’s only partially true because there are other wounds that kill a person while he still lives, making him one of the undead. He reasons, imagines and creates, but despair shadows everything he does using her cloak of listlessness. He cannot will himself to fight, but neither can he stay inert, and so he walks in a way that is antithetical to a mystic’s stroll. This occurs when he sees the aforementioned black shore of life with obsidian and feels the sting of acid rain. And yes, in this context, ignorance is bliss.
So, I continue, rolling a boulder up a hill, possessed by madness and apathy. They boo me off the stage and throw tomatoes, but I still perform. They hate my guts, but I’m not bitter. I’m lost, dazed and confused like a stranger in a strange land, never knowing where I’ll go and what awaits me next. Perhaps I should lie inert. Maybe I should give up, but some force (that isn’t a force) and some power (that isn’t power) make me wake up and start walking. Not literally, but metaphorically, because my legs don’t move like they used to; my heart doesn’t beat like it once did; my soul doesn’t throb with life like it did yesteryear.
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