Will I live till fifty? Sixty? SEVENTY? How long will I live?
All day, I hear huge diesel trucks driving on the busy street outside my office. The street is on a steep slope with a stop sign at its end, so all the trucks must brake when traveling down it. Therefore, the soundtrack to my workday is a perpetual drone of countless engines decelerating. But this is a digression; let me get back to brooding on the calamity of so long life.
It was only to signify my incredulity that I wrote the number “70” in all capital letters at the start of this post. I did not mean to imply that that year is the cutoff, past which I’m unwilling to negotiate my lifespan. For I’ll gladly consider enduring ages even up to eighty or ninety. Or maybe not gladly; but I’ll claim that I am thankful, at least in public.
And Enoch walked with God after he begat Methuselah three hundred years, and begat sons and daughters. And all the days of Enoch were three hundred sixty and five years. And Enoch walked with God: and he was not; for God took him.
And Methuselah lived an hundred eighty and seven years, and begat Lamech. And Methuselah lived after he begat Lamech seven hundred eighty and two years, and begat sons and daughters. And all the days of Methuselah were nine hundred sixty and nine years: and he died.
Those are some words from Genesis (5:22-27). Can you imagine how it would feel to live through one full century, let alone nine? After a certain point, even if “advancements in technology” were to turn the world’s ways of life off-kilter, it would be hard to keep believing in human progress: for major events, however upright they’d initially appear, would soon prove to be the same old deceitful deeds dressed up in new fashions. That’s what I predict. But I hope I’m wrong. I’m currently in a pessimistic mood, because I’m reading a history book. It’s about the United States, from the time of World War One to the present moment’s WAR-WITHOUT-END.
There are two laws discrete,
Law for man, and law for thing;
The last builds town and fleet,
But it runs wild,
And doth the man unking.
I’m reminded of these lines from Ralph Waldo Emerson’s 1847 “Ode, Inscribed to W.H. Channing,” because humankind is still suffering for the sake of THINGS; so much horror, over so many years (and how many more?) on behalf of securing the possessions of a handful of nation-free businesses…
Now this misfortune brings to mind a couple passages from Shelley:
And much I grieved to think how power and will
In opposition rule our mortal day—
And why God made irreconcilable
Good and the means of good…
That’s from “The Triumph of Life” (228-231); and I think I copied the following lines here before (they’re always worth repeating) from “Prometheus Unbound” (I.625):
The good want power, but to weep barren tears.
The powerful goodness want: worse need for them.
The wise want love, and those who love want wisdom;
And all the best things are thus confused to ill.
Many are strong and rich,—and would be just,—
But live among their suffering fellow men
As if none felt: they know not what they do.
That final phrase, as you know, is from Luke’s Gospel (23:33-34):
When they were come to the place, which is called Calvary, there they crucified him, and the malefactors, one on the right hand, and the other on the left. Then said Jesus: Father, forgive them; for they know not what they do.
Lastly the above quotes from Shelley remind me of lines 3-8 from “The Second Coming” by WB Yeats—perhaps they were on his mind, too, as he was writing it:
Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold;
Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world,
The blood-dimmed tide is loosed, and everywhere
The ceremony of innocence is drowned;
The best lack all conviction, while the worst
Are full of passionate intensity.
Yet my hope is that the most sensitive souls will soon manage to freshen our world so as to render those latter excerpts unintelligible.
In the P.P.S. below, I used some wrong words because the right ones bored me. For instance, “bee” should be “wasp”; and “some honeycombs” should be “a nest.” Please forgive this.
A bee was building some honeycombs directly above our front door. This happens annually, because bees love eaves. But last week the weather froze, and the bee stood motionless until this very day. So my sweetheart suggested that maybe the poor thing perished, since there’s no way that it could have survived thru last Thursday, which was the night of the lethal cold. And I agreed; so we assumed the bee was dead. But then today when my sweetheart was leaving for work, I stood at the front door, beneath the famous eave, waving goodbye with my pinky finger (as I am wont to do, when loved ones leave), and I happened to glance upward – lo! the bee was moving: just then it spread its wings and flew away. So I conclude that it probably wasn’t dead after all. It was either sleeping or meditating or praying.