Friday, 26 December 2008

Boxing Day Reflection

Two things occupying my time at the moment, around the merriment of Christmas and New Year festivities are:
(1) Reading: The Shack by WM Paul Young, and
(2) Completing an assignment (3000 words) for my current MA in Creative Writing. The title: What, if any, is the significance of tradition for poets we have studied? Your answer should refer to at least two poets studied on the course. The two poets I’ve decided to focus on are W.H. Auden and Philip Larkin.

It is always interesting when different elements of one’s life seem to come together and link in to formulate a ‘word of wisdom’. I’ll explain what I mean. In researching Larkin – I came across his poem titled: Aubade (which I post below), a poem that contemplates death in an honest and straightforward way. Underlying the poem is that age-old question as to the meaning and purpose of our lives – especially when we are being ravaged by difficult and traumatic circumstances. It is this same question that is ultimately presented in an intelligent and different way in the book: The Shack. Indeed, I heard about this book in the summer but for some reason resisted jumping on the bandwagon at the time – and I have only finally picked up a copy this December. And on reading it (absorbed from beginning to end)... all I can say is: WOW! It is a book that discusses an old narrative in a vibrant, new way – causing the reader to re-think ideas and paradigms of one’s understanding and truth about God (or that ultimate power or supreme being... however you choose to interpret or define ‘Him/Her/or It’). Even though this book is a Christian book – it transcends the religion or system we call ‘Christianity’ – and asks for serious reflection and consideration of the question posed by Larkin’s Aubade – to both Christians and non-Christians alike. It provokes and challenges pre-conceived notions and ideas of humanity’s relationship with a supreme being (however, you interpret that!) Hence, both Larkin’s Aubade and Young’s The Shack has illuminated for me a quote that I read recently by the contemporary artist, Francis Alys: ‘Sometimes, to make something is really to make nothing; and paradoxically, sometimes to make nothing is to make something.’

I find it poignant to be reading and reflecting on these things at the dawning of a new year. A reminder to myself that in my anxious moments when my mind is shackled by deep and dark fears and feelings of uncertainty about the future, that the key to living in the now and present is to: ‘trust and let go’ – allowing each day to take care of itself.


Aubade by Philip Larkin

I work all day, and get half-drunk at night.
Waking at four to soundless dark, I stare.
In time the curtain-edges will grow light.
Till then I see what's really always there:
Unresting death, a whole day nearer now,
Making all thought impossible but how
And where and when I shall myself die.
Arid interrogation: yet the dread
Of dying, and being dead,
Flashes afresh to hold and horrify.

The mind blanks at the glare. Not in remorse
- The good not done, the love not given, time
Torn off unused - nor wretchedly because
An only life can take so long to climb
Clear of its wrong beginnings, and may never;
But at the total emptiness for ever,
The sure extinction that we travel to
And shall be lost in always. Not to be here,
Not to be anywhere,
And soon; nothing more terrible, nothing more true.

This is a special way of being afraid
No trick dispels. Religion used to try,
That vast, moth-eaten musical brocade
Created to pretend we never die,
And specious stuff that says No rational being
Can fear a thing it will not feel, not seeing
That this is what we fear - no sight, no sound,
No touch or taste or smell, nothing to think with,
Nothing to love or link with,
The anasthetic from which none come round.

And so it stays just on the edge of vision,
A small, unfocused blur, a standing chill
That slows each impulse down to indecision.
Most things may never happen: this one will,
And realisation of it rages out
In furnace-fear when we are caught without
People or drink. Courage is no good:
It means not scaring others. Being brave
Lets no one off the grave.
Death is no different whined at than withstood.

Slowly light strengthens, and the room takes shape.
It stands plain as a wardrobe, what we know,
Have always known, know that we can't escape,
Yet can't accept. One side will have to go.
Meanwhile telephones crouch, getting ready to ring
In locked-up offices, and all the uncaring
Intricate rented world begins to rouse.
The sky is white as clay, with no sun.
Work has to be done.
Postmen like doctors go from house to house.


Calli said...

Hi CathM- Thank you for trying to access my blog. I am not sure why it causes a browser error. You are actually the third person who has had trouble. I will definitely look into it.

Hope you had a wonderful Christmas and a very Happy New Year!

And, I will be back to check out your blog further.

Maithri said...

A profoundly beautiful poem...

Remembering our mortality
frees us into
the vibrancy, urgency
and potency
of life...

"Slowly light strengthens..."

I feel that...
Somewhere in the deep
of my heart

Thank you for sharing your light,

Blessings of peace and power as you turn the page...

and a new day begins...

With love, Maithri

CathM said...

Calli - Thanks for your message. I do hope I'll be able to access your blog soon:)

Maithri - Thank you for your deep & insightful comments on this entry. I'm curious, what area/discipline of medicine are you in? My sister, Lillian, is also a Dr - General Practice (in the US). And, also - which part of Africa are you originally from? I'd guess... Ethiopia/Erithia or Kenya...(lol)?

Maithri & Tracey-Ann - Many thanks for following my blog as 'blogging comrades'. It's hugely appreciated & I look forward to staying connected with you guys!

Maithri said...


I was born in Sri Lanka ;) I volunteer in Swaziland whenever I can... and in australia, where I live and grew up, i'm a medical registrar at a hospital in victoria... Its the equivalent of general practice, step before specialty training.

Actually in swaziland, most people think i'm from eritrea or kenya ;)...

I'm A citizen of the world i guess...

Blessings of peace my sister, M

CathM said...

Maithri - Sri Lanka... goodness, I was way out (lol)! Hmmmmm... I know what you mean about being a 'citizen of the world'. My African heritage is Nigerian; though I was raised in the Middle East (Jerusalem, Egypt & Syria); completed my schooling and university in the US and the UK; currently living and working in the UK (London/ and now Birmingham); married to an Aussie and looking to relocate to Melbourne early next year '09. Yep - a citizen of the world... that's us (LOL)! Cheers.

June Saville said...

'Trust and let go'
I like that Catherine. Fear can be our greatest enemy ...
June in Oz

Cynthia said...

Hi Cath, this post is so interesting, and I'll have to
buy copy of The Shack. Your
assignment sounds exciting,
would love to hear more about
your studies, what are you
majoring in?

Happy New Year!

Maithri said...

Relocating to Melbourne???

Well you better look me up ;)

How awesome...

I'll be returnin to Swaziland for a few months in early 09 but we should definitely catch up when i get back!

Love and peace, M

CathM said...

@Cynthia: re The Shack – not perfect in terms of writing skill(though, still very good); but absolutely ‘mind-blowing’ in terms of the ‘soul issues’ it raises. It is one of those rare pieces of writing that has the power and ability to convict so deeply – and, make you think (or re-think) current paradigms that dictate one's life. A really interesting book – and, definitely worth the read!

re Assignment – well, I’m in my second year of an MA in Creative Writing (with a Poetry focus); while completing a Post Graduate Certificate in Creative Writing (with a Prose focus). Both distance-learning courses – although run very differently (around a full-time teaching work)... and, both absolutely great choices! I’ve loved – loving every minute of these creative writing undertakings. Really helping me to hone in my writing skills! At the moment, my preferred platform of writing is the ‘short story’... although, I am working on a fantasy novel and do write some poetry (although, with poetry – it does seem that I have to be in the right frame of mind (lol))!

Thanks for your interest... I love sharing a bit more of myself with people... (smile)!

CathM said...

@Maithri: re re-location to Melbourne: yes – that’s the plan at the moment (by God’s grace)... and, I’ll definitely be looking you up when I arrive and I’m all settled. Well – I hope all goes well for you in Swaziland. I hope it’s a fruitful and rewarding time for you. Stay well. Will you still be blogging from there? Hope so!