Thursday, March 7, 2013

Poetic Wisdom


There is a lot of wisdom in poetry. For example, Robert Frost utters a couple of very profound lines that seem to come out of nowhere in “Two Tramps in Mud Time.” The narrator says his ambition in life is to unite his vocation with his avocation as his two eyes make one in sight. Isn’t that a wonderful way of saying that we ought to strive for doing something pleasurable for a living?

Both of my brothers were pilots and they each talked about what a wonderful job they had. They couldn’t believe someone furnished them an airplane, let them fly it and paid them for doing so! They had united their vocations with their avocations. Though the phenomenon is getting rarer these days, I have known teachers who love their work so much they would do it for free. And, what about actors? They obviously enjoy their work and are remunerated generously.

What about you? Do you awaken in the morning dreading going to your job or do you say, “Hot dog, another day to do what I love”? A worthy ambition would be to do something for a living that makes you glad to wake up in the morning.

Another wise thing that is said in poetry comes from John Keats’ “Ode on a Grecian Urn.” Don’t ask me, “What’s a Grecian Urn,” or I might reply about $10 an hour on average, and you would not laugh, just as you are not even grinning now. I know, you are moaning at the pun, because that’s how you are supposed to react to a pun. But, digression notwithstanding, the line of wisdom from Keats is, “Thou shalt remain in other woe than ours a friend to man.” He is speaking of a work of art. The art will be preserved to speak to our human condition down through the years to people with other troubles and problems than we have now. Here, Keats gets at the central purpose of art, to address the human condition in a “friendly” fashion.

The penultimate bit of wisdom from a poet; this one, from the poet who signed himself “e.e.cummings” is somewhat unusual. He wrote, “pity this busy monster manunkind.” He does not refer to the human race as mankind, but manUNkind, punning on the “kind” part of the word. He apparently does not see anything kind in mankind. But rather than condemn or lament the human condition, the poet asserts that we should show pity. In a way, that is a Christian worldview. Even though we are redeemed, we still have the “sin nature.” That is as pitiable as it is lamentable. But, without choices that could go wrong, we would be no more than automatons. God apparently didn’t want a bunch of robots going around saying “I love you, Lord” because they couldn’t say anything else, right?

Finally, the great Shakespeare wrote that we are, like a piece of charcoal, consumed by that which we were nourished by. I have seen ash in a fireplace that looks dead, but there is a little bright red hot thing in the middle!

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