Tuesday, September 20, 2011

A Stranger Here

A stranger here
Strange things doth meet, strange glories see;
Strange treasures lodged in this fair world appear,
Strange all, and new to me.
But that they mine should be, who nothing was,
That strangest of all, yet brought to pass.

- Thomas Traherne, from  A Salutation

* * *

Traherne was an Anglican priest who died in 1674. Over two hundred years later two anonymous manuscripts were found in a London bookstall. They were Traherne's poems and commentary. He was the last of the great Metaphysical Poets. It only took two hundred years to find that out. As late as 1967 Traherne manuscripts were still being found. The last one was burning at a garbage dump and saved by a man looking for auto parts.

Strange, indeed.

* * *

If you are counted among the fucked folk, your life somehow less than you'd imagined or expected, harder, meaner than necessary, hemmed in by loss or lethargy you have let slip the strange beauties, the strange mercies and currencies of life. You have traded strange treasures for certain miseries.

What the fuck? Do you not yet know this is your one turn at the wheel?

If the world moved easier because of loss and misfortune, our lives would be the most fortunate imaginable. If the world fed riches on tears, or rains fell because of fear, we'd be fat cats in a global rain forest. But that's not the way it is, is it?

I know you've been hurt. Some of you have born unbearable tragedies. Most of you are making excuses to hide your better self. Either way none of us are allowed the excuse of quitting, or simply going through the motions. Would you compound tragedy and loss with quitting, adding hurt to hurt, pain to pain, misery upon misery?

The one failure, the one sin always available to us is to give up. If you're fucked, you've given up.

Now knock it off.

* * *

The Traherne story echoes and reverberates in my bones. He was dead at 37. He is buried beneath the reading desk of his church. He wrote of life unfettered by fear. He was absorbed into the ground, his writings lost for two centuries, and then...  It is breathtaking to me. He lived as he wrote and died where he loved and the world outside of Hereford knew nothing of it. And yet you and I, should we bother, are heirs to his fidelity, his love, his desire to communicate that love because he wrote it down and it survived the fall of time and all its attendant miseries.

Had I died at 37 there is little I could have shown for having lived. We moderns are forever busy, but forever going nowhere. We have to fight through the clutter of distractions that pass as entertainments, indulgences wrapped in justifications because it is so damn hard to hear yourself think with all the noise clanging for our attention.

And yet this is our time, not Traherne's, and we must make use of it, just as he made use of his. Figure out what to do and then go do it. Waiting just fucks you. And if your work comes to nothing in this time, in this place, whisper Thomas Traherne's name as you fall asleep and know, and know, and know there is someone two hundred years ahead of you who needs what you have to give.

This is the strangest treasure of all, yet with your effort, will come to pass.

* * *

Now go. You have work to do.


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