13 July 2017
Today I took my car to the dealership for an oil and filter change. As usual I opted to sit there and wait for the work to be done. As usual, I took my trusty Renaissance and Baroque Poetry of Spain out of my pocket. As usual, I started to read those well-thumbed pages. Within a few minutes, I put the book down, closed my eyes and thought about the number of flower poems that I had devoured, just in those few minutes. “Roses, roses, everywhere, and not a bite to eat.”
Sure, Bakhtin tells us that we must dialogue with our time and place and my place is the waiting room in a car dealership and my time is a two o’clock appointment on a Thursday afternoon, and no, there isn’t a rose in sight, nor any other flower. So why, I think to myself, am I reading about roses and making the most of my life and taking advantage of my youth and beauty when I am nothing but an old scarecrow with grey hair, a heavy limp, two walking sticks, a stutter, and an inability to put too many cohesive thoughts together on the same afternoon? Why indeed am I sitting in a car dealership wasting this sunny afternoon in hot pursuit of an oil and filter change while reading about flowers and the sex life of people dead now for four or five hundred years?
The cycle of life, the wheel of life, the cyclical time that goes round and round, and we do this and that and what we have to do, just because we are bound to the wheel and the wheel is eternal and we humans are temporal and we do not have the time to understand that, dammit, we must get off the wheel, get out of the cycle, look around us and dialogue with the dustman, the barrow-boys, the fish-mongers, the shop-keepers, and the flower-sellers, not just the flowers and what they can tell us about the brevity of life.
Our life is a linear narrative. Sure, we live it within the wheel of the seasons, within the circle of the sun, within those repeated twenty-four hours that each day gifts us, but life is limited and we must make the most of it. But how I made the most of it fifty years ago and how I make the most of it now are two different things, and no, I do not need to thrust flowers at young women anymore in the hope that they will accept me for what I am not, nor have ever wished to be.
“Rant, rant, wherever you may be, for I am the Lord of the rant,” said he.
Forget the old philosophers but do not forget the apocryphal Pseudo-Socrates who wrote that “the unlived life is not worth examining.” I believe he was also the penner of the famous phrase “Join the Army: there’s no life like it,” with its equally famous translation “pour ceux qui aiment la vie,” but he had been a Hoplite before he was a philosopher and had defended his country with spear and shield, even though his words were often misinterpreted, especially by intellectual pseudo-pacifists and those who had never stood up for the fatherland / motherland, or anything other than themselves, not even at a sporting event.
So, we all know we are going to die, we just don’t know when. Take life’s orange, I say, hold it in both hands, squeeze it dry, take advantage of every day … every moment of every day … take your nose out of your old dry dusty books … written by old dry scavenged bones that long ago wilted into dust … shut off the television … unplug the computer … throw away your cell phone … walk, talk, limp, struggle, complain, bitch about the hand life has dealt you … then play that hand for as long as you can …
… and remember my friend, the greatly underestimated Spanish poet Jose Maria Valverde who wrote: “pobres poetas de hoy: polvo seco de tesis doctoral.” ‘Poor poets of today: condemned to be nothing more than the dry dust of an unread doctoral thesis.’