how sober in our foolishness
It's April Fools' Day.
My mother will tell you the same thing-- in April, it is difficult to resist quoting the well-known opening lines of The Wasteland.
April is the cruellest month, breeding
Lilacs out of the dead land, mixing
Memory and desire, stirring
Dull roots with spring rain.
Winter kept us warm, covering
Earth in forgetful snow, feeding
A little life with dried tubers.
Yes, he spelled "cruellest" with two L's.
So, what did you expect, visiting a blog named for a verse from The Four Quartets.
Oh, but did Eliot not just hit the nail on the head. As children in elementary school classrooms--walls bedecked with pastel cut-outs of flowers and butterflies--As children, we are told that Spring brings life. And with that first bug on your windowsill, the chirping birds in the morning, and the first flowers out of the ground, the buds on the trees -- yes, absolutely, they didn't tell us wrong. And you too develop a new liveliness -- you remember what it was like to be free, free to go outdoors, to go barefoot, to run and to play. And as the same children, the joy came upon us and out we went, and enjoyed a new life. Now, as I am older, I feel more reflective about these things. Maybe it's surprise that the climate has such an effect on me, when I thought I had a tight grasp on my own identity. Maybe it's anxiety at engaging with the world again...winter kept us warm....when the world is narrow and focused on keeping out of the cold, higher hopes are forgotten and perhaps that was a good thing. From a Buddhist point of view, we give in to desires and hopes because they promise us beauty and joy, but these desires and hopes in themselves embody the necessary condition for suffering. And Albert Camus, he liked to characterize Hope as a form of Nostalgia...the most crippling kind...maybe that's one reason why Eliot mixes desire and memory in the same verse.
Every so many hours I open my web browser and there's the Times with another headline, and these headlines seem more and more surreal every day, and the mystical side of me -- I don't believe in that side, I just indulge in it because I enjoy the poetry -- the mystical side of me believes it all has something to do with April. So, here I carry on my unidimensional, tunnel-vision life, and every click onto Internet Explorer unfolds increasingly bizarre stories of who the world has lost or will lose this Spring. Terri Shiavo -- better referred to by her full name Theresa Marie, as an editorial used this morning -- with every click, we go from a vaguely smiling woman, to an ugly legal battle, to legislative fury, to click...click...click...and one day she is no longer alive. Now, Karol Wojtyla, a tracheotomy, a feeble wave on Palm Sunday, a feeble wave on Easter...click...a high fever...click..."grave condition"....click, failing organs, but oh if he isn't so "serene", how dare the Pope be anything but serene. And the flocks of people praying for him. Explain to me, folks who pray--I'm not trying to be critical, I just want to understand -- why do you pray for the Pope as he dies? What are you praying for? What sort of event or circumstance do you think would turn out more poorly than anticipated if you did not pray?
In the meantime, Johnny Cochran dies, and I'm told that "Chicken Magnate" Frank Perdue dies. Iraqi citizens and soldiers of all nationalities and hungry people and neglected mentally disabled people and homeless people all die, and we won't notice or frankly care.
You're going to forgive me for this entry, aren't you? It's not like I want to be morbid or make people depressed. No, no, that's really not my intention. It's the conflictedness of Spring coming back again. Being so aware of being alive makes you so aware of fragility.
Fragility is not bad. People turn from machines of wood and metal -- posts that stand rigid in the January snow, that remained fixed in climate-controlled buildings and churn out their daily product -- they turn into something much softer that you actually want to embrace. It's not all bad. I don't feel all bad. It's Spring. It brings life.