Quotes that Say Something

"Please, dad, get down and look. I think there's some kind of monster under my bed."

Life when seen in close-up often seems tragic, but in wide-angle it often seems comic. -- Charlie Chaplin

"And when the cloudbursts thunder in your ear, you shout, but no one's there to hear. And if the band you're in starts playing different tunes, I'll see you on the dark side of the moon." -- Roger Waters, "Brain Damage"

May 3, 2013

Endurance -- Beyond the Sunset

     I feel guilty when I stray away from this quiet, little blog for such a long time. Guilty even when I am working on something purposeful elsewhere. Like writing original material for some other audience.

     But I'm back to say that the best advice that I have ever been given -- about sitting down to write something new  -- is simple. The advice was two syllables, one word:  finish.

     A new book of stories which I have been piecing together has proved to have an elusive closure point. It's ironic that the newest piece that I am working on is a story -- with a protagonist named Butterman stuck in the midst of the detainees' hunger strike at the Guantanamo naval base -- tentatively titled "Endurance." My plan was to have the whole project wrapped up and bound for e-book land before Easter. But the best laid plans . . .

      Fortunately, I just had a surprise distraction amidst my (in)action, an office drop-in dragging in a whacky business idea. This has lent me an excuse to draft this blog note.

     The surprising (and loopy) proposal that she was pitching caught me off-guard. But it spurred me to give my visitor that absolutely withering, wordless, I don't think so gaze that has terrorized hordes -- for many years -- of staff members, employees, co-writers, teammates, trolls, and children. This is that look that my visitor csaptured. Do I seem pleased? No, I do not.

"No, I don't think so!  Just come back
with when you have a really good idea."

     Endurance. While I have been constructing this unmolded story I've been thinking about Tennyson's work -- and curiously about those folks who were badly injured in the recent bombings in Boston. Challenging it can be to stay on the right path -- especially when something like a bang and a flash hurls one suddenly right off of it. In particular, I've been studying again the poem "Ulysses" with it's emotional closing -- relating to an aging but idle Adventurer looking to 'leave it all behind' by launching anew into some great unknown, but probably fairly happy just to hang out quietly in his Grecian barcalounger, watching his worker-bee scepter bearing kid, Telemachus, do much of the unpleasant lifting on their weathered isle. It's a story told often before.

      But, now, I see it's time to go back to my immediate task. Endurance. Completion. On to the finish! No time to yield. (But wait, maybe I'll grab lunch first. Then pick a Kentucky Derby horse to bet on tomorrow. Look around for some lingering list of B-level priorities to address. It just may be that ItsMyLuckyDay.)  


        --  Alfred Lord Tennyson

It little profits that an idle king,
By this still hearth, among these barren crags,
Match'd with an aged wife, I mete and dole
Unequal laws unto a savage race,
That hoard, and
sleep, and feed, and know not me.
I cannot rest from
travel: I will drink
Life to the lees: all times I have enjoy'd
Greatly, have suffer'd greatly, both with those
That loved me, and alone; on shore, and when
Thro' scudding drifts the rainy Hyades
Vext the dim sea: I am become a name;
For always roaming with a hungry heart
Much have I seen and known; cities of men
And manners, climates, councils, governments,
Myself not least, but honour'd of them all;
And drunk delight of battle with my peers,
Far on the ringing plains of windy Troy.
I am a part of all that I have met;
Yet all experience is an arch wherethro'
Gleams that untravell'd world, whose margin fades
For ever and for ever when I move.
How dull it is to pause, to make an end,
To rust unburnish'd, not to shine in use!
As tho' to breathe were life. Life piled on life
Were all too little, and of one to me
Little remains: but every hour is saved
From that eternal silence, something more,
A bringer of new things; and vile it were
For some three suns to store and hoard myself,
And this gray spirit yearning in desire
To follow knowledge, like a sinking
Beyond the utmost bound of human thought.

This is my son, mine own Telemachus,
To whom I leave the sceptre and the isle--
Well-loved of me, discerning to fulfil
This labour, by slow prudence to make mild
A rugged people, and thro' soft degrees
Subdue them to the useful and the good.
Most blameless is he, centred in the sphere
Of common duties, decent not to fail
In offices of tenderness, and pay
Meet adoration to my household gods,
When I am gone. He works his work, I mine.
There lies the port: the vessel puffs her sail:
There gloom the dark broad seas. My mariners,
Souls that have toil'd and wrought, and thought with me--
That ever with a frolic welcome took
The thunder and the sunshine, and opposed
Free hearts, free foreheads--you and I are old;
Old age hath yet his honour and his toil;
Death closes all; but something ere the end,
Some work of noble note, may yet be done,
Not unbecoming men that strove with Gods.
The lights begin to twinkle from the rocks:
The long day wanes: the slow
moon climbs: the deep
Moans round with many voices. Come, my friends,
'Tis not too late to seek a newer world.
Push off, and sitting well in order smite
The sounding furrows; for my purpose holds
To sail beyond the sunset, and the baths
Of all the western stars, until I die.
It may be that the gulfs will wash us down:
It may be we shall touch the Happy Isles,
And see the great Achilles, whom we knew.                                        

Tho' much is taken, much abides; and tho'
We are not now that strength which in old days
Moved earth and heaven; that which we are, we are;
One equal temper of heroic hearts,
Made weak by
time and fate, but strong in will
To strive, to seek, to find, and not to yield.

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