Yesterday, as I was waiting to hear whether G.’s 95-year old mother would be well enough to go home, I picked up the Sunday NYTimes and read this article about being gentle. We Americans so want things to be under our control: things that happen to us as a result of other people’s actions or non-actions. We want to control or at least influence the outcome of matters which are also outside of our control. Old Asian attitudes counsel us instead to meditate and to become aware of our energy, especially how we use it in ways that help us rather than hurt us.
In this article, it was interesting to notice how the husband made things better by going with the flow: building by hand the coffin for her mother when she died and then building one for his own when his mother passed away. He was more philosophical than I could be about his eldest daughter getting pregnant and having a child out of wedlock. But even more accepting when she became pregnant again! Now, they have two young children in their care at home. While reading about these lives, I was thinking to myself how he seems to be able to distinguish what he could do something about, and what he couldn’t, thereby making the best of events outside of his control. A very wise man. In contrast, I often allow myself to be saddened or frustrated by things that happen that are outside my control.
Then, there’s an opposite view voiced by a Welsh poet, Dylan Thomas who railed against the onset of old age and, of course, dying. His poem is entitled, “Do Not Go Gently Into This Good Night.” Here it is:
Do not go gentle into that good night,Old age should burn and rave at close of day; Rage, rage against the dying of the light. Though wise men at their end know dark is right, Because their words had forked no lightning they Do not go gentle into that good night. Good men, the last wave by, crying how bright Their frail deeds might have danced in a green bay, Rage, rage against the dying of the light. Wild men who caught and sang the sun in flight, And learn, too late, they grieved it on its way, Do not go gentle into that good night. Grave men, near death, who see with blinding sight Blind eyes could blaze like meteors and be gay, Rage, rage against the dying of the light. And you, my father, there on the sad height, Curse, bless, me now with your fierce tears, I pray. Do not go gentle into that good night. Rage, rage against the dying of the light.
Instead of “rage, rage, raging against the dying of the light,” I’m going to enjoy the light, whatever it happens to be. And to go gently, wherever I may.