I'm no poet, but I admire poetry.
Some evidence is that after my wife got tired of watching Dickinson on Apple TV+, a streaming series about the poet Emily Dickinson, I continued on until I'd seen every episode of the first three seasons.
I loved how Dickinson looked at life in such a fresh and creative fashion, even taking into account how loosely the series probably adhered to the literal facts of Emily Dickinson.
For example, she spent quite a bit of time in a carriage with Death, a cool Black guy who was overworked, particularly after the Civil War started. Did Dickinson fantasize those meetings? Was she mentally ill?
Or was her fascination with Death a reflection of her poetic sensibilities? That rings most true to me. Reality is a slippery notion when it comes to poets and their poetry.
Which really is no different than how slippery each of us becomes when we try to describe to someone else how we feel about something. There always is a gap between our intuitive experience and whatever means we use to convey that ineffable something to another person.
Poetry is one way of narrowing that gap. So is music, art, dance, tears, laughter, facial expressions, writing, hugs, plus so much more.
I'm toying with the idea of finding ways of writing blog posts for the Church of the Churchless that do a better job of capturing how I look upon various subjects. This wouldn't be poetry as such, but words with more of a poetic feeling tone.
Might as well start with death.
I'll be going about my day, doing routine stuff, when suddenly a message pops into my mind, surprising me.
"One day you won't be doing this. Or anything else. Because you'll be dead."
It's a message that rings true. No big surprise. It is true.
We can make up stories about an afterlife. I've done that. Most people do. It's a foundation that religion rests on.
A very shaky foundation. Because no one knows if there is life after death. All we know is there is death after life. The proof is all around us.
A million deaths in the United States from COVID-19. Deaths of friends, family, famous people, ordinary people, cats, dogs, cows, chickens, fish.
Everything that lives, dies. But we humans, me certainly included for much of my life, we can visualize ourselves living on forever.
Kind of takes the sting out of death. Or so it seems. Because actually the stinger is still attached to the scorpion of death.
It has to be. Death is inevitable.
And if we're honest, we say to ourselves, "I'm going to die, and I have no idea if there's any living after my death."
That honesty is what breaks through my ordinary mind from time to time.
I'll be washing the dishes and suddenly realize, not for that much longer. Like I said, the realizing is a sudden burst of nothing else also for that much longer.
So it doesn't do me any good to vow that from this death-realizing moment onward I'll only do what is so deeply meaningful, in that way I will cheat death by living life so fully, I'll die satisfied.
Fine. But I'll still die. Which will bring to an end satisfaction, dissatisfaction, and everything else.
There's a stark divide between existing and not-existing. We try to use our well-honed techniques for dealing with life's problems to handle our knowledge that death is the end of life.
But they don't work. They can't work. Something, anything, is utterly incapable of dealing with nothing.
I'm left, then, with a simple feeling of gratitude when I have one of my meetings with death. The encounter wakes me up. For a while it stops me from taking my life for granted. Also, my wife's life. Our dog's life. All lives.
No matter if I'm having a good day, a bad day, or a so-so day, I'm having a day. Yay! I'm alive. Who knows for how long. I sure don't. No one does.
Whatever I do, at least I'm doing something. Which is a heck of a lot better than being nothing. If I could always realize this, I guess I'd be a Zen master. Or at least, a Zen student who does the dishes.