Thursday, November 21, 2013

Bolt And Bar

Bolt and bar the shutter,
For the foul winds blow:
Our minds are at their best this night,
And I seem to know
That everything outside us is
Mad as the mist and snow.

Horace there by Homer stands,
Plato stands below,
And here is Tully's open page.
How many years ago
Were you and I unlettered lads
Mad as the mist and snow?

You ask what makes me sigh, old friend,
What makes me shudder so?
I shudder and I sigh to think
That even Cicero
And many-minded Homer were
Mad as the mist and snow. 

- WB Yeats, "Mad as The Mist and Snow"

* * * 

There comes a time when it all cracks open and you can never go back. Never go back to a life unthinking, a life unawares, a life unknown, a life unlived. Never not ever. The wildness of your freedom shudders and shatters the paltry foundation you've been standing on and all is in play, everything in play and you are the wind that howls and storms and blows: free, driven by your own force. Even Cicero and many-minded Homer were mad as the mist and snow.

And now you are, too.

* * *

Yeats' poem moves between the wildness of a storming night, the cage of a lettered life and the wildness of childhood. Like most of his poems there is a foolish verve to believe, to look over your shoulder and see the pattern and to mourn for being unawares at the time. This poem came back to me the other day after being tucked away for thirty years. I found it and read it aloud to my empty house - not in some posey, prosey, poetry, simpering way, but at the top of my lungs, full throat and there it was: another gear, another crack in the foundation, another blow to my foolish ego.

As I like to say: boom.

* * *

There is a tendency to think that we once held freedom and madness and wildness in our veins when were children. The woes and wearying responsibilities of our adult lives blotted out the sun of those days. We learn. We grow. We matriculate. Our wildness is left for weekends and vacations and office parties with lampshades on our heads. And we die a bit each day to live separated from the force that once drove us, that made us laugh at the miracle of having a body that could run and fall and bleed now and again and heal and dare ourselves to do it again. 

And so it is. Childhood becomes adulthood and we are done with childish things. And I am not here advocating for a return to childhood. That is, like all things sentimental, a betrayal of the life in your veins.

We get fucked because we lose our way. We get fucked because either we forget who we are, or never make our own acquaintance. You don't find your way by pretending you can start from zero. You find your way by putting one foot in front of the other, by letting go of the things you've carried with you for too long - loss, fear, doubt. You find your way when you quit living by others' demands and instead restore your senses to being alive at this very moment. The past is dead and gone, yet it exists because you exist; it informs who you are moment to moment. The task before you is to move through your life informed, but unburdened by your history. When you come to see that it can be done your life cracks open and the gift you once knew as a child - to be mad as the mist and snow - is restored to you but with the hard earned burnish of having gotten there as the person you now are: history and freedom rhymed.

* * *

It is an easy thing to laugh in the tents of prosperity and in the vintage and to sing on the wagon loaded with corn. It is easy and small and misses the point of being here at all. Better is to sing like a howling wind, a survivor's gale, restored, completed by the force that still drives you, unburdened by the pain, many-minded, mad as the mist and snow.



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