A fragment on the Solstice

This post began ambitiously. It was to reflect on our attitudes towards ease and to connect them with the Myth of Sisyphus. Lack of daylight, December colds, scattered attention has left that intention cast upon the shore, at least for now.

But this fragment may be of use as it is. It was intended to go before the last post, to be precise in ways that won’t seem that important once a little more time has passed, water under the bridge…

We are strongly motivated to pursue ease. What if ease, instead of being a prospect of clear sailing, is really a sign that we are ignoring more than is good for us? What if loosening of constraint is not a lessening of difficulty but a symptom of our ignorance of how things are?

As we approach the winter solstice with thoughts of ebb and flow and cycles and change coming to the fore – and having reached the two hundredth post for this blog! – here is a recent poem addressing the questions of cycles.

Southeast Wind in November

Clouds and rain in November feel dreary,
the ending of a year
approaching like an illness,
not boding well….

But a southeast wind making landfall from off the sea,
a luminous overcast stretching across the sky
threatening cold sharp needles
of rainfall in its darker passages…

The water not simply grey, but cut and scratched with
silver tending green, and hinting at deep violet
– like an angry lover’s eyes, hard –
yet underneath, a passion that cannot be contained.

Gulls, ducks, an occasional Horse-head Seal,
going about their day
inured to the cold,
indifferent to damp & wet.

The glorious Fact-of-the-World shines through,
it isn’t all about us, our mood,
our insistence to project in here out there,
not simply there to stand-in as our mirror.

Beginnings & endings are arbitrary. We force them
on the World like months onto a calendar
insinuating a caesura where none exists,
fabricating a break where there is nothing but continuity.

A southeast wind on water insists if we pause to listen.
This moment is. Not as a costume, nor a mantle upon air,
water, and sand; a thing entire in itself. Just as each bright shin-
ing day is not, either more, or less true while it is here.

Our rituals of the shore; pausing, watching,
strolling without purpose other than to look down,
look up, look out over this moment
in which we are immersed.

Ages of cycles and variation, of waves, of wind,
of sun and rain ride here as though perched atop
each wavelet approaching the shore,
each drop of rain, pelting us and dripping away.

We call such moments a “time out.”
A curious inversion of when we glimpse foundations
we mostly ignore and take for granted, taking
the World as mere backdrop for our striving.

Southeast wind in November, blowing
in over water, icy rain
insisting on our
attention.

Antonio Dias 11.10.11

This poem came to me in the Provincelands looking out from Herring Cove Beach. It speaks to the urges we have to place beginnings and ends where cycles only place an ever changing ebb and flow. We also want to make this moment a repeat of something in the past, or we are busy rushing off into the future and don’t see what is here right now. Countering these urges requires effort, and there are times like these, the end of another year, forebodings on so many fronts as we look ahead into the coming year. It is – I was going to say, easy – to want things to be easy, or at least easier for a change.

I find this urge is in the way of so much of what needs to be done. We seem to be at the bottom of a hole lubricated by all the ease we’ve craved, all the ease we’ve found, on our way here. This brought Sisyphus to mind.

We see the Myth of Sisyphus as a telling of how difficulty is a curse, perhaps related to Eve’s curse in the Garden of Eden. For the Existentialists, this story was the exemplar of the absurdity they found at the base of Modern Life. We should revolt. Have another drink, light another cigarette, and get on with it! Let’s celebrate the absurd and imagine Sisyphus happy!

What if there were something else there? What if it’s not absurd to imagine Sisyphus happy? What if it’s a sign of his wisdom that he is happy?

For Sisyphus his efforts are greatest when he is pushing his rock up the hill, least as the stone falls back down. Ease would dictate that he look forward to its falling and begrudge the effort of raising it back up. He doesn’t differentiate. It is a cycle, continuous and like breathing. Do we begrudge the exhalation, only favoring the rushing in of air?

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2 thoughts on “A fragment on the Solstice

  1. Ease seems to be antithetical to doing. Most of the things I find worth doing are hard. They can hurt mind and body. Pulling on an oar, pushing a plane, hammering on a keyboard, ordering ones thoughts. Ease heads towards those Houseman ( I think it was) lines: Ale man Ale’s the stuff to drink for people who it hurts to think. For Malt does more than Milton can to justify Gods ways to man.

    1. Ben,

      Sorry it’s taken so long to reply!

      Doing an inventory and just read your comment.

      Yes! Things worth doing are hard. I’ve just written some more on the subject… “Resistance

      Thank you for the “Ale Man.”

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