Thursday, March 24, 2011

Ulysses, by Tennyson

" ...Come, my friends.
'Tis not too late to seek a newer world.
Push off, and sitting well in order smite
the sounding furrows; for my purpose holds
To sail beyond the sunset, and the baths
Of all the western stars, until I die.
It may be that the gulfs will wash us down;
It may be that we shall touch the Happy Isles,
And see the great Achilles, whom we knew.
Though much is taken, much abides; and though
We are not now that strength which in old days
Moved earth and heaven, that which we are, we are---
One equal temper of heroic hearts,
Made weak by time and fate, but strong in will
To strive, to seek, to find, and not to yield. "
-Alfred Lord Tennyson (1842)

A friend recommended that I read this poem for my birthday last week. I am thankful for good friends who are willing to share a good poem with me. I love a good poem. It works well for me because I recently read the Odyssey and could follow this short bit of verse with at least some understanding. Plus, I am inspired right now at the thought of a better world; the idea that the world can actually be improved, be it only the proximal world around me, or me only, is inspiring. That which we are, we are--not so, Lord Tennyson. Timshel.

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Apathy, Who Cares?

I've been thinking a lot lately about a paradox that keeps popping up in my religious worship--in every aspect of my life. It has repeatedly led me to choose to be indifferent in various stages of my life. I know the signs very well, yet have no defense against the slow slide to passionless serenity. It's somewhat comical, because what people are usually searching for when they search religion is serenity. But, like boils on my flesh, it plagues me. For me, religion is no place for serenity and apathy. I feel like it should be struggle and pain and clarity. Serenity is like looking into the surface of untroubled water, you cannot see what lies underneath until the surface tension is broken and the glare from the sun sunders into waves.

It mainly has to do with life after death. If there is life after death, and if life continues on in the way we say it will, then this life is nothing but a waiting game. Once we die we move on, like the transition from middle school to high school--important in the moment, but forgotten entirely in the future. Again, if there is no afterlife, and if this life is really all we have, doesn't it become of most importance to preserve what little while of consciousness we have by managing our risks, and perpetuating this tiny existence as long as we've got it? Even more importantly, if there is no life after death, what is the point to passion? All the drops will return to the passionless drink in the end, anyway. But seeing as I do believe in life after death, let's explore that topic a bit further.

Life is followed by a better existence. When we are in a better existence, we rarely think about (or can remember adequately) the worse experiences we've had. Therefore, when we are in heaven we will rarely think about this life. How do you fight apathy when you realize that what you're living for will soon be obsolete?

Maybe I am just seeing a smaller portrait of the greater picture. I guess I am also confused by this other paradox. If we all believe in life after death, why are we wasting our time doing things that have nothing to do with that future life? It seems a rare thing to think these days.

I don't want apathy or indifference in any measure in my life. I want to care about the little things, even keeping in mind how they contribute to some celestial frame, and do each thing in life with that particular passion that is common among happy, or at least complex, people. But the paradox returns and returns. I am constantly living my life for the next, so why should I care too much about this one? But then again, if I don't mind this one duteously enough, I'll have lost any opportunity at seizing the next.

I should just devote my life to money, and put these cares of apathy and existentialism out of my mind. Money is easy. It provides enough stimulus to keep one always striving. One can never acquire "too much". The reasons are simple, the goals easily definable, and the pathway discrete. There couldn't be a more futile concept in my mind than the concept of striving for money. To have spent time doing anything for money is to have been truly idle.

I just wish it was easy to keep a fire always burning, you know? It seems, though, like life is a continual cycle of inspiration and flatness. Don't worry, though. Soon true doctrine will fill my ears and the paradox will plague no more. I'm sure of it.

"For who knoweth what is good for man in this life, all the days of his vain life which he spendeth as a shadow? for who can tell a man what shall be after him under the sun?" -Eccl. 6:12

"Therefore I say unto you, Take no thought for your life, what ye shall eat, or what ye shall drink; nor yet for your body, what ye shall put on. Is not the life more than meat, and the body than raiment?" -Matt. 6:25

"Therefore, care not for the body, neither the life of the body; but care for the soul, and for the life of the soul." -D&C 101:37

"Whosoever shall seek to save his life shall lose it; and whosoever shall lose his life shall preserve it." -Luke 17:33