Wednesday, March 25, 2009

I Have Been In Darkness Before...

I'm writing a poem around the concept that life can be beautiful, fulfilling, and completely meaningless all at once. Not a new idea, I know, and I suppose a fair amount of my poems touch on that philosophy, but it is a way of thinking that is close to my heart.

I often hear the argument that god is needed to give life meaning. A heaven or a hell, some kind of afterlife. Without god, the argument goes, people would have no moral compass, existence would just be a meaningless journey to death filled with pain, madness and suffering.

Well, I got news for ya kids: that's life in a nutshell, god or no.

On the other hand, if we are lucky, and many of us aren’t I know, but if we are lucky, we are given our share of decent moments in this life. Hours, weeks, years of existence on the earth without an abundance of pain, perhaps some joy scattered about here and there, and, if we are very lucky, a bit of love. The meaning of it all is the simple fact of it.

I do not believe that most of the good people do is born of a belief in god, rather from a feeling of empathy for our fellow human beings. The golden rule, you know. We are good to each other because we are each other. That Dostoyevskian concept that if one of us is suffering, we are all suffering.

Most of those who claim a belief in god don’t live their lives in a more godlike manner than the rest of us, very often just the opposite. They can be as nasty and ugly as they want as long as they pop into church once or twice a month, or repent their entire lives on their deathbed, if given the chance. And they fear death just as much, if not more so, despite what they claim to believe.

An interesting aspect of being an unbeliever-you’re not supposed to talk about it, just keep it to yourself, for fear of upsetting the godlike, the elderly, the faint of heart. Just nod and smile when the god stuff is being passed around.

But sometimes one gets tired of nodding and smiling, and I want to say, I do not think you really believe what you profess to believe, and if you do, I firmly believe you are in error, and if you don’t truly believe it, you are a fool for pretending to. In short, we all need to grow up a bit if our species is ever going to reach its full potential.

We are born, we live, we die. I think the only honest way of being is to admit we don’t know what happens after that. I imagine we get back to doing whatever it was we were doing before.

Okay, I’m done. For now. Thanks for reading, if you’ve read this far. It’s all a jumble, I know. But spewing a bit of it out might help me to sleep a bit better.

I’ll leave you with a much loved (by me, anyway) passage from the introduction to the book, The Story of San Michele by Axel Munthie. I’ve never actually gotten around to reading the book itself, but what I read of the introduction was enough to make me take it home. The author is speaking of his lifelong love of animals, and rejecting the idea of an afterlife reserved solely for human beings:

“If it is true that there is no haven of rest for them when their sufferings here are at an end, I, for one, am not going to bargain for any heaven for myself. I shall go without fear where they go, and by the side of my brothers and sisters from forests and fields, from skies and seas, lie down to merciful extinction in their mysterious underworld, safe from any further torments inflicted by god or man, safe from any haunting dream of eternity.

The night will be dark for there will be no stars overhead and no hope for a dawn, but I have been in darkness before. It will be lonely to be dead, but it cannot be much more lonely than to be alive.”

Good Night.

1 comment:

  1. good points, Bill.

    life is often a contradiction in terms. it's achingly beautiful at the same time that it's perfectly painful.

    and luck does play a huge role in it all.

    this is why we all love your poetry, you can distill the most complex of human emotions and philosophies into a phenomenally dense yet accessible 25 line poem. stunning.