Take These Chains



The Great Chain of Being … Happy

The Great Chain of Being, a concept applied to Medieval Literature by Arthur Lovejoy, suggested that all beings are related in hierarchical structures that link them from top to bottom in an ordered chain. I have always liked that idea and see myself as one among many voices, past, present, and hopefully future that feel and write about the joys of living on this wonderful planet that we inhabit. This thought immediately poses the question: do we write from joy or sorrow? Obviously, it depends upon the individual. Equally obviously, we can write from joy at one stage of our career and from sorrow in another stage.

Antonio Machado phrased it this way: En el corazón tenía / la espina de una pasión. / Logré arrancármela un día: / ya no siento el corazón. I felt in my heart a thorn of passion. One day I managed to pluck it out. Now I no longer feel my heart. Machado is a seemingly simple poet, but that simplicity is oh-so difficult to translate and imitate. So: what happens if we write from that interior passion and then, one day, we wake up and the passion has gone? Good question. Some people stop writing. Others take to drawing. Others take photographs. In my case, I have sat in a south facing window just gazing at the sunshine reflected off the snow and pottering through my favorite poets.

Francisco de Aldana is one of my favorites and I am drawn to reflect on these lines: Hallo, en fin, que ser muerto en la memoria / del mundo es lo mejor que en él se asconde, / pues es la paga dél muerte y olvido. I finally discover that to be dead in the world’s memory is best of all, since the world’s wages are death and forgetfulness. While these words will seem gloomy to some, to me they express the joys of retirement, the wonders of just sitting and looking out of the window, the escape from the necessity to produce, to achieve, to be ambitious, to grow a career, to drive myself on and on. “What is this life if, full of care, / we have no time to stand and stare?” Words of wisdom from the Welsh poet, W. H. Davies.

When I sit and stare, I also think, observe, and remember. And I see things I have never seen before: how light changes the world, how sunshine falls on the petals of flowers, how texture is changed by changing light, how light slips through the fingers like water or sand. The end result is an inner peace that accepts things for what they are and the world for what it is.


In my privileged case, and I realize just how lucky I am and how fortunate I have been, I have grown to appreciate the tiny things, the small achievements. And small things now satisfy me: the completion of a crossword puzzle or a jigsaw, the nature of light, the beauty of an orange, peeled and tasted, its life blood still fresh upon my fingers and gracing the air, words prancing in lines and chains across a page, the dance of shadow on wall.



12 thoughts on “Take These Chains

  1. This was so uplifting, Roger. I’ve felt quite stressed and pressured recently and have decided to give myself a break from weekly writing. This absolutely confirms what I was thinking. Perhaps creativity will manifest itself in other ways, perhaps it will go into hibernation for a while until the pressure lifts but it will return. Thanks for this Roger. With your permission, I’d like to reblog it this week.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks, Meg: to be re-blogged, especially by you, is always an honor. Thank you. The world is a really stressful place right now. Writing those words yesterday, I realized just how lucky I am not to be involved anymore in the daily struggle to stay alive. I thought of the 800,000 government workers without pay cheques in the USA and I came close to tears. I look at Brexit and read the anguish in the letters sent to me from my old childhood friends on both sides of the divide, and I realize that I am doubly blessed. I have friends in Venezuela … need I say anymore? So pleased to reach out, with a bouquet of words, and lift just one heart! Thank you.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Thank you, Roger. I think we’re all feeling the pressure – directly or indirectly of current world conditions. We cannot be safely isolated no matter how stable our own nation or state. It’s a global house of cards, with everyone dependent on everyone else. I suppose like a painful operation, the ordeal will be worth it only if the outcome is good. And in the meantime, we do the best we can to help the recovery effort!

        Liked by 1 person

      • I know the feeling all too well. Isolation doesn’t help, yet one is not isolated when one is at peace with oneself and the nature that surrounds us. In the current world, I cannot help but think of Burns’ words: “Man’s inhumanity to man”. We have all witnessed colossal inhumanities these last few decades.

        Liked by 1 person

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