Wednesday, February 18, 2009
Does earth end before the right arm fails?
"The sun turns black, earth sinks in the sea,
The hot stars down from heaven are whirled;
Fierce grows the steam and the life-feeding flame,
Till fire leaps high about heaven itself."
From the book: "Poetic Edda"
Specifically, from the poem: "Voluspo"
"The Wise-Woman’s Prophecy"
My arrival at the end of the earth ….
I have not attempted to write a single line of poetry since I was a "college boy."
The mother of a young lady I knew back then gave me that designation when her husband yelled from far inside the house to ask her who she was talking to in the hallway.
"It’s just Cindy, Harold," the mother shouted back to her husband. "She brought home a college boy!"
I think Cindy's father had visions of me mowing his yard while I was waiting for her to change clothes, while Cindy's mother, I am almost certain, immediately began planning a menu for the wedding reception. (All right, all right. I'll get back on topic.)
Don't panic and turn the page. I'm not quite ready to start composing sonnets yet, but reading the poetry of others has gotten me to thinking about it. Thinking about it led to consideration of possible events or milestones in my life that gave me pause, that stirred my emotions, that I might wish to memorialize.
Riding the prow of a ship, an event that I wrote about a few days ago, consisted of around 10 minutes that branded themselves into my mind forever. (It really was an actual event, believe it or not.) Maybe I'll try a poetic effort about those minutes. Or, possibly, I'll attempt putting to verse another event that occurred a few days later. Allow me to test the concept.
Imagine, if you would, Moses parting the Red Sea. (Surely, you've heard of that or, at least, seen Charlton Heston do it.) Transfer that image to fog instead of water: A ship is slowly cruising dead center through a "channel" of calm, blue-green water which is glistening in bright sunlight. The channel is, at most, a quarter-mile wide because on either side is a bank of thick fog which hides the vast ocean. Get the image? Instead of a path of land with water on either side, we have a path of calm, listless water with thick fog, perhaps extending a few hundred feet in height, on either side, hiding the endless sea.
Our protagonist (me), comes up on deck from breakfast below, lights his cigarette and walks to the prow of the ship (his prow, now; he has laid territorial claim to it, as males often tend to do). Since it is the light of day, he knows better than to duck beneath the guard chain, so he stands before it.
Abruptly, probably a half-mile ahead, a nuclear-powered submarine emerges from the fog, cutting across the channel of clear, calm water at about a 45-degree angle from the ship. About the time the first submarine reaches the midpoint of the channel, a second submarine breaks free of the fog, following directly in the wake of the first. Our protagonist (yep, me) watches the black creatures in absolute awe as they silently slide through the sunlit sea, end-of-the-earth predators stalking an unknowing target.
The images are locked forever in our protagonist's mind (still me). Within a few minutes, the first submarine has crossed the clear, serene channel and disappears into the bank of fog on the other side. A few moments later, the second submarine has trailed its companion into invisibility.
Our protagonist (yes, still me) knows he truly has arrived at the end of the earth, in time to be a part of the gathering storm which will erupt into the end of everything. It is the eve of Ragnarok, and he will be player in it. (He is a romantic, you see, and prefers the mythology of the Old Norse to the apocalyptic vision in the Old Testament.) Incidentally, did you notice that "end of the earth" can be interpreted at least two ways?
Whatever, I've been wondering how to translate that experience into poetry. It would make a good painting, too, except I cannot paint.
I believe in the strength of my own right arm ….
A visitor here a few days ago, Inanna, brought up the subject of reincarnation in relation to an 1883 pocket watch I purchased. A primary reason for buying that particular watch was because I felt an inexplicable attraction toward a woman whose photograph was contained inside the case.
Inanna said that if I believed in reincarnation, my attraction could be explained easily. The explanation being, I had known this woman in a previous life. I replied that I neither believed nor disbelieved in reincarnation. I said that sometimes it seemed to me I had an opinion on just about everything, but was convinced about very few things. Skeptical about everything; discounting nothing. I said a story told about a priest attempting to convert a Viking to Christianity might explain the structure of my personal system of belief.
I tried, but cannot recall the source of the tale, and have too many books to spend any amount of time looking for it but, in substance, this is the story:
A priest was attempting to convince a Viking to renounce the "old (pagan) gods" and to accept Christianity. After much discussion, the Viking still stubbornly refused to accept baptism.
The priest then asked the Viking what it was about the "old gods" that led him to believe in them.
To which, the Viking replied that while he did accept the role of the "old gods" in his society, he did not, himself, believe in their existence.
The priest next asked the Viking, "In what, then, do you believe?"
To which, the Viking replied, "I believe in the strength of my own right arm."
The story seemed clear to me. The man believed in what he knew with absolute certainty to exist, with what had been personally proven to him to be real -- something he could see and feel and test. Rather a nihilistic point of view. This might be considered a "primitive" position to hold today in the 21st Century, considering the "advancement of knowledge" during the last 1,000 years.
However, when one enters the realm of the "unknown," it seems to me that an individual basically has two choices. He must either choose between faith in an abstract concept or in acknowledgement of what is provable. A third alternative, when circumstances are applicable, is to be an agnostic and to admit you simply do not know the answer. You might have an opinion, but you do not know the answer. Possibly you will know some day, but you do not know right at this moment. I am agnostic about many things, not just religion. I do not know why so many people have a difficult time saying those words: "I do not know."
For me, one of the more enjoyable ways to spend leisure time is discussing personal beliefs with another individual. Generally speaking, people do less and less of this when they move out of the educational system and into the world of career employment. Too busy, they say. Sure, that is true, but more often, I think, too frightened or too narrow-minded. No wonder so many people end up alone.
The last couple of paragraphs of this segment turned out sort of klutzy, but what the heck.
Music Note: Currently listening to Pearl Jam ....
Specifically, "Ten" ....
(Not really a fan, but some of their stuff is good)