Anxiety and T.S. Eliot

“The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock”

S’io credesse che mia risposta fosse
A persona che mai tornasse al mondo,
Questa fiamma staria senza piu scosse.
Ma percioche giammai di questo fondo
Non torno vivo alcun, s’i’odo il vero,
Senza tema d’infamia ti rispondo.
Let us go then, you and I,
When the evening is spread out against the sky
Like a patient etherized upon a table;
Let us go, through certain half-deserted streets,
The muttering retreats
Of restless nights in one-night cheap hotels
And sawdust restaurants with oyster-shells:
Streets that follow like a tedious argument
Of insidious intent
To lead you to an overwhelming question …
Oh, do not ask, “What is it?”
Let us go and make our visit.
In the room the women come and go
Talking of Michelangelo.
The yellow fog that rubs its back upon the window-panes,
The yellow smoke that rubs its muzzle on the window-panes,
Licked its tongue into the corners of the evening,
Lingered upon the pools that stand in drains,
Let fall upon its back the soot that falls from chimneys,
Slipped by the terrace, made a sudden leap,
And seeing that it was a soft October night,
Curled once about the house, and fell asleep.
And indeed there will be time
For the yellow smoke that slides along the street,
Rubbing its back upon the window-panes;
There will be time, there will be time
To prepare a face to meet the faces that you meet;
There will be time to murder and create,
And time for all the works and days of hands
That lift and drop a question on your plate;
Time for you and time for me,
And time yet for a hundred indecisions,
And for a hundred visions and revisions,
Before the taking of a toast and tea.
In the room the women come and go
Talking of Michelangelo.
And indeed there will be time
To wonder, “Do I dare?” and, “Do I dare?”
Time to turn back and descend the stair,
With a bald spot in the middle of my hair —
(They will say: “How his hair is growing thin!”)
My morning coat, my collar mounting firmly to the chin,
My necktie rich and modest, but asserted by a simple pin —
(They will say: “But how his arms and legs are thin!”)
Do I dare
Disturb the universe?
In a minute there is time
For decisions and revisions which a minute will reverse.
For I have known them all already, known them all:
Have known the evenings, mornings, afternoons,
I have measured out my life with coffee spoons;
I know the voices dying with a dying fall
Beneath the music from a farther room.
               So how should I presume?
And I have known the eyes already, known them all—
The eyes that fix you in a formulated phrase,
And when I am formulated, sprawling on a pin,
When I am pinned and wriggling on the wall,
Then how should I begin
To spit out all the butt-ends of my days and ways?
               And how should I presume?
And I have known the arms already, known them all—
Arms that are braceleted and white and bare
(But in the lamplight, downed with light brown hair!)
Is it perfume from a dress
That makes me so digress?
Arms that lie along a table, or wrap about a shawl.
               And should I then presume?
               And how should I begin?
Shall I say, I have gone at dusk through narrow streets
And watched the smoke that rises from the pipes
Of lonely men in shirt-sleeves, leaning out of windows? …
I should have been a pair of ragged claws
Scuttling across the floors of silent seas.
And the afternoon, the evening, sleeps so peacefully!
Smoothed by long fingers,
Asleep … tired … or it malingers,
Stretched on the floor, here beside you and me.
Should I, after tea and cakes and ices,
Have the strength to force the moment to its crisis?
But though I have wept and fasted, wept and prayed,
Though I have seen my head (grown slightly bald) brought in upon a platter,
I am no prophet — and here’s no great matter;
I have seen the moment of my greatness flicker,
And I have seen the eternal Footman hold my coat, and snicker,
And in short, I was afraid.
And would it have been worth it, after all,
After the cups, the marmalade, the tea,
Among the porcelain, among some talk of you and me,
Would it have been worth while,
To have bitten off the matter with a smile,
To have squeezed the universe into a ball
To roll it towards some overwhelming question,
To say: “I am Lazarus, come from the dead,
Come back to tell you all, I shall tell you all”—
If one, settling a pillow by her head
               Should say: “That is not what I meant at all;
               That is not it, at all.”
And would it have been worth it, after all,
Would it have been worth while,
After the sunsets and the dooryards and the sprinkled streets,
After the novels, after the teacups, after the skirts that trail along the floor—
And this, and so much more?—
It is impossible to say just what I mean!
But as if a magic lantern threw the nerves in patterns on a screen:
Would it have been worth while
If one, settling a pillow or throwing off a shawl,
And turning toward the window, should say:
               “That is not it at all,
               That is not what I meant, at all.”
No! I am not Prince Hamlet, nor was meant to be;
Am an attendant lord, one that will do
To swell a progress, start a scene or two,
Advise the prince; no doubt, an easy tool,
Deferential, glad to be of use,
Politic, cautious, and meticulous;
Full of high sentence, but a bit obtuse;
At times, indeed, almost ridiculous—
Almost, at times, the Fool.
I grow old … I grow old …
I shall wear the bottoms of my trousers rolled.
Shall I part my hair behind?   Do I dare to eat a peach?
I shall wear white flannel trousers, and walk upon the beach.
I have heard the mermaids singing, each to each.
I do not think that they will sing to me.
I have seen them riding seaward on the waves
Combing the white hair of the waves blown back
When the wind blows the water white and black.
We have lingered in the chambers of the sea
By sea-girls wreathed with seaweed red and brown
Till human voices wake us, and we drown.
[T. S. Eliot]

 

Remember reading this in high school? Or maybe dozing off when it was discussed in the obligatory poetry unit? I know, so much doesn’t stick. Hopefully my reading plumbs the depths of its emotion a bit further than your high school self was able to.

Reading this first in middle school, then high school, then again in college, I’m fairly familiar. It’s grown on me with each reading, and now it lurks in the corners of my mind, and lines from it come to me when I need them. Today – “there will be time”.

Sometimes I sit completely still, my mind racing with thoughts of all I want to accomplish in a given day. I’m wasting time by contemplating just how little I have. This gets my heart racing, plants me firmly in my head instead of my body or the present moment, and brings on anxiety.

But there will be time. Life is long, and yes, I want to write a dozen essays and edit 20 pages of my novel and write three emails and meditate and run and do yoga and cook dinner and draw a picture and finish reading War & Peace today, but goodness gracious, TAKE A BREATH. Whatever your list of to-dos looks like, trust. Breathe. Know that there is time and there will be time. And the best way you can use it is to be here. Now. And do one thing, fully, at a time.

What helps you relax? How do you ease your mind on a busy day?

Love and namaste –

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Why Did America Fight the Vietnam War?

On Memorial Day, we remember our veterans – valuable lives lost to various causes, many names we’ll never know. In honoring them, it’s valuable to understand what causes they died for – valuable to learn the history of our world and its wars. This 5 minute video [click the title to access it] presents a brief history of the Vietnam War along with an interesting alternative outcome.

I only wished to say that ideas that have great results are always simple ones. My whole idea is that if vicious people are united and constitute a power, then honest folk must do the same. Now that’s simple enough.

[Pierre Bolkonski, Tolstoy’s War and Peace]

39 I never lost as much but twice

 

I never lost as much but twice –
And that was in the sod.
Twice have I stood a beggar
Before the door of God!

Angels – twice descending
Reimbursed my store –
Burglar! Banker – Father!
I am poor once more!

[Emily Dickinson]

Oh, the levels, the soul, the depth of feeling! She has expressed the ineffable confluence of emotion that is grief.

Love and namaste –

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38 I never told the buried gold

 

I never told the buried gold
Opon the hill that lies –
I saw the sun, his plunder done –
Crouch low to guard his prize –

He stood as near
As stood you here –
A pace had been between –
Did but a snake bisect the brake
My life had forfeit been.

That was a wondrous booty.
I hope ’twas honest gained –
Those were the fairest ingots
That ever kissed the spade.

Whether to keep the secret –
Whether to reveal –
Whether while I ponder
Kidd may sudden sail –

Could a shrewd advise me
We might e’en divide –
Should a shrewd betray me –
“Atropos” decide –

[Emily Dickinson]

Atropos – Greek: without turn. One of the three Fates – goddesses of destiny. The oldest of the three, Atropos was known to be inflexible. She chooses the mechanism of death and snips the thread of life with her “abhorred shears.”

Written autumn 1858 and bound into Fascicle 3. This one seems light and airy at first, but wow. I read it aloud last night and am writing it out today, and it has grown to be a meditation on childhood and adulthood, on the fracturing that can happen to our joy, on the trauma that can intrude on our lives and steal away our treasure. Damn, girl! I love this. I hope you do, too.

Namaste –

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37 By chivalries as tiny

 

By Chivalries as tiny,
A Blossom, or a Book,
The seeds of smiles are planted –
Which blossom in the dark.

[Emily Dickinson]

Written in the fall of 1858 and bound into Fascicle 3. I copied this one down and had it hanging it my apartment for a while – it’s a sweet bit of encouragement to be kind. An affirmation that the slightest action does make a difference, even if it doesn’t seem to in the moment. A reminder that people remember how you make them feel over what your wearing or how your hair looks.

As Annie sang in the musical I watched as a kid – “You’re never fully dressed without a smile!”

Namaste –

 

36 If I should die

 

If I should die –
And you should live –
And time sh’d gurgle on –
And morn sh’d beam –
And noon should burn –
As it has usual done –
If Birds should build as early
And Bees as bustling go –
One might depart at option
From enterprise below!
‘Tis sweet to know that stocks will stand
When we with Daisies lie –
That Commerce will continue –
And Trades as briskly fly –
It makes the parting tranquil
And keeps the soul serene –
That gentlemen so sprightly
Conduct the pleasing scene!

[Emily Dickinson]

Written autumn 1858, Fascicle 3. I just love her whimsically realistic relationship with Death, showcased sweetly here. Also, her capitalization is worth noting. Throughout her work, you’ll find patterns. Used to show respect, to personify, to emphasize – attribute whatever reasoning you please. Play.

Namaste –

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35 Sleep is supposed to be

Sleep is supposed to be
By souls of sanity
The shutting of the eye.

Sleep is the station grand
Down wh’, on either hand
The hosts of witness stand!

Morn is supposed to be
By people of degree
The breaking of the Day.

Morning has not occurred!

That shall Aurora be –
East of Eternity –
One with the banner gay –
One in the red array –
That is the break of Day!

[Emily Dickinson]

Written about autumn 1858, originally with a dedication to her father playfully protesting his insistence on early rising. She later bound it into Fascicle 3, without the dedication, and, while it is a witty case for staying in bed a little longer, it transcends this to celebrate the dawn of a new day for the soul, the mind, the mood – any breaking of weight that might be haunting the spirit.

So, at whatever you time you read this, I wish you good morning –

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34 Taken from men this morning

 

 

Taken from men – this morning –
Carried by men today –
Met by the Gods with banners –
Who marshalled her away –

One little maid – from playmates –
One little mind from school –
There must be guests in Eden –
All the rooms are full –

Far – as the East from Even –
Dim as the border star –
Courtiers quaint, in Kingdoms
Our departed are.

[Emily Dickinson]

This was written in autumn 1858 and bound into Fascicle 3.

ED used her lexicon like a Bible, selecting each word with intention and understanding. I like to look up certain words, even if they’re already familiar to me – sometimes the official definitions are richer than the ones I know.

Even – steady; unwavering; consistent; equal; balanced.
Marshall – gather and arrange in a force to perform an action.
Quaint – unusual; old-fashioned; delightful; delicate; incomprehensible. From Latin cognitum, to ascertain.

Namaste –

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33 Whether my bark went down at sea

Written Autumn 1858, bound into Fascicle 3. Ah, the daily adventures of the mind and soul –

 

Whether my bark went down at sea –
Whether she met with gales –
Whether to isles enchanted
She bent her docile sails –

By what mystic mooring
She is held today –
This is the errand of the eye
Out opon the Bay.

[Emily Dickinson]

And, with practice, the eye becomes sharper, quicker. And the bark becomes increasingly resilient.

Sail bravely –

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