Saturday, 24 July 2010


It is very tempting to try to escape to a conflict-free paradise, but one cannot stay out of the fray forever except through death.  Maybe that is what vacations from life are really ... small deaths.  Orgasms have been called petits morts because they too provide an escape from life. 

I guess I hoped that I could spend my old age, at least my still active old age, here is my own little paradise.  And then I discovered that few real places offer complete absence of tension.  Sentient beings cannot completely escape the fray forever.

My friend Claire posted part of a poem by Charles McKay we had both learned in high school.  (No I didn't remember the poet's name.  In fact I could never have quoted the lines half as accurately as she did; I googled her quote.)  The poem's message was that people who are fully engaged in life must take stands, some of them unpopular, and so they make enemies.

I tried unsuccessfully to find a poem that has stayed with me all my life.  I think it was about Ulysses ... perhaps Alfred Lord Tennyson ...  perhaps another English poet from that era.  He and his men were shipwrecked on an island where some lovely, tranquillizing, mood enhancing drug grew wild in the fields.  All of them, sailors, officers and captain, were sorely tempted to remain in this drug-induced state of bliss forever, but the captain knew that one cannot escape the burdens placed on us by life and so he insisted that they leave their paradise and gird themselves to face the difficult journey home to the harsh reality they would encounter when they finally got there.  He forced them back to life.

Of course, if they had stayed, reality would have found them  anyway.  Power struggles would have ensued.  Differences of opinion would have occurred.  Schisms would have developed.  Even in an opium-hazy environment, something would have crept in to tempt someone.  Isn't that the story of the Garden of Eden after all?

The human condition is simply that: you cannot stay in the garden forever; one day you either have to enter the wilderness, or the wilderness will encroach upon the garden.  Either way, eventually it will become clear that lions do not lie down with lambs; they eat them.

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