Tuesday, September 01, 2009

September 1, 1939

The first cool tendrils of autumn thread into the late summer air in Portland.

I'm reminded again, in the turning of the season, of the turning of Man's seasons by this wonderful post by the gracious and beautiful Lisa, who reminds me that for all my frantic striving, and impatience, and anger, and lust, and desire and ambition, my rushing only speeds me faster towards the final night. And that the only real meaning is not the end - as she says; we're ALL dying - but in the meeting of it.

So perhaps the best thing for me - for all of us - is to just stop. Stop trying to find reasons to divide us each one from the other. Stop finding reasons to profit from another's weakness, failings, or pain. As the Bible says; for every thing there is a season, and a time for every purpose under Heaven. Perhaps the time is here to love each other as we would be loved.

And I find myself full of love; as I age I find that I am more foolishly fond than ever. I find myself wondering that I ever gloried in the thunder of the captains and the shouting - that now seems the nadir of foolishness, when the simple pleasures of friendship, love and loving run so deep. What price glory when tenderness comes for the asking?

This loving comes in the most unlooked for places and times. The other day I found myself thinking of a person; not a lover, or a love at all but a friend, and not even a close friend but just a casual sort of friend, one I don't know particularly well but found that I wished I did better. And in that I realized that I wanted just to immerse myself in her as I would a hidden pool of still water. I wanted to sit next to her, talk with her. To look into her eyes and see the play of quick wit there, to know what she was thinking at that very moment; to see the sunlight shining coolly on her hair and look to find the gray among the original satin, all the dearer for what it told of her life and the living of it. To feel the warm pulse under the quiet skin at her wrist and ankle, and to admire the vaulting tracery of strong bone and tendon in her shoulders and feet; etched more starkly now that the last of the soft fat of youth has been burned away by time but all the more lovely for that.

And I was amazed, because this was not the passion of lust, the desire for intimate possession - I know those, have felt them before, do, and, I hope, always will, for the woman who sleeps with our little man (Tuesday is the Peeper's "sleeping with Mommy" night) in the bed in the next room. I think what I felt was just the desire to really know this person, know her down to the blood and bone, to feel like I could really comprehend the full quality of this person for the really decent, honorable, smart, vital person she is, to enjoy and celebrate her not for what she did, or what she could do, or be, for me and to the world but purely for herself, for the wonder that the combination of biochemistry, synaptic energy and musculoskeletal architecture created in a single, unique woman.

Every one of us holds a universe within us. We are capable of the greatest good, the greatest passion, the greatest understanding...and yet we spend so much of our days finding ways to tear all of that apart. Why? What darkness sates us so, that we rend each other for our own libertarian needs; lupus semper est homo homini?

Seventy years ago we started the balefire that should have burned into our souls that the lie of Authority is to teach us to turn away from that love we should feel for each other; the love of the friend for friend, the tenderness of lovers, the protective love of parent and child, the love for all of those around us. For without that love is the fire and the night.

"For the error bred in the bone
Of each woman and each man
Craves what it cannot have,
Not universal love
But to be loved alone.

From the conservative dark
Into the ethical life
The dense commuters come,
Repeating their morning vow;
"I will be true to the wife,
I'll concentrate more on my work,"
And helpless governors wake
To resume their compulsory game:
Who can release them now,
Who can reach the deaf,
Who can speak for the dumb?

All I have is a voice
To undo the folded lie,
The romantic lie in the brain
Of the sensual man-in-the-street
And the lie of Authority
Whose buildings grope the sky:
There is no such thing as the State
And no one exists alone;
Hunger allows no choice
To the citizen or the police;
We must love one another or die."

from W.H. Auden's "September 1, 1939"


Lisa said...

That is it, exactly! I am left breathless, as always. What you express is true humanity. If we were all known -- loved -- to that depth by someone, terror, fear, anger and misery would dissolve, I am sure.

Depression is the blight of our vaunted society because we suffer so much fear and anger; we are so unknown, yet enjoy a love-hate with our anonymity. Two steps to freedom: being vulnerable enough to reveal oneself, and having the good fortune to find someone who wishes to receive your gift.

Thank you. . . thank you.

FDChief said...

Lisa: Then I am content.

The Wanderers' Daughter said...

You always write so beautifully...and Auden isn't half bad either.