Brian’s Reflection: Tuesday, June 1, 2010
Ashes of Life
Love has gone and left me and the days are all alike;
Eat I must, and sleep I will,—and would that night were here!
But ah!—to lie awake and hear the slow hours strike!
Would that it were day again!—with twilight near!
Love has gone and left me and I don't know what to do;
This or that or what you will is all the same to me;
But all the things that I begin I leave before I'm through,—
There's little use in anything as far as I can see.
Love has gone and left me,—and the neighbors knock and borrow,
And life goes on forever like the gnawing of a mouse,—
And to-morrow and to-morrow and to-morrow and to-morrow
There's this little street and this little house.
Edna St. Vincent Millay (winner of the Pulitzer prize for poetry)
Last August, with friends on our way to Tanglewood, we came across a sign pointing us to the home, called Steepletop, of Ms. Millay in Austerlitz NY – so off we went to explore! We found a delightful little “museum”, with an enthusiastic keeper, and Ms. Millay’s house, 191 acres of property (originally 700), and gravesite, all left “as is” when she died at age 58 in 1950 after falling down the stairs – including the (then) ultra-modern kitchen that was installed for her by some food company I think. She was a recent widow when she died, and I wonder if this poem is an expression of that, or of a greater deeper reality? Probably both.
I don’t know about you, but I can certainly feel the emptiness in her poetic voice. And the loneliness – if that’s the right word. The absence of Love is a terribly deep wound. Some of the most wrenching stories I have ever seen/read are about that loss or deprivation. It seems to leave the deepest scars, and generate the most violent feelings. And somehow, the fact that one just goes on eating and sleeping and days go by and other people get on with their lives and one’s own life is just duration powerfully enhances the isolation of the lack of Love.
There should be no surprise then that Jesus said that Love is the highest character of humanity and of “God”. The Buddha said it is Compassion, that ability of Love to care deeply for another/others that transcends preoccupation with the Self – or better, knows that the Self is most deeply blessed in loving others.
We human beings are not complete fools. We see the Path to happiness, and we invent deities embodying Love. But I do wish that, having divined the Reality, we’d be braver in living it. Myself included. The World seems today (to me) to reflect Millay’s poem – lonely for Love. Maybe this is a time then in which Love can blossom. If we can try to love the Israelis and the Palestinians, and all the other these-those, it will make a difference.