What I Learned from T. S. Eliot
T. S. Eliot has always been a poet that I have struggled to understand. Besides that, I could never comprehend why he moved from the States to England at the time of WWI and became a British citizen between the two world wars. I seriously doubt whether he would have been in favor of Scotland's recent independence movement.
Most Americans know of his Old Possum's Book of Practical Cats, which was published as WWII began. Four decades later, Andrew Lloyd Webber wrote the musical, Cats, based upon Eliots' Old Possum's Book of Practical Cats.
However, Eliot wrote many other books of poetry that are lesser well-known by many Americans. He wrote The Waste Land in 1922, which is a modern version of the quest for the Holy Grail.
A couple years later, Eliot wrote Hollow Men, which was his poetic spin on what he saw Europeans go through during WWI.
While I bike around the subdivision where I live, I happened to recall something else that Eliot wrote. There I was riding my bike up and down some rolling hills during my 45-minute daily workout as I approach my 72nd birthday in January. I have danced with death a couple times already. However, I want to be prepared the next time I have to dance with death especially when it comes to my cardiovascular health. Therefore, I do precisely what Dr. Marchand, my cardiologist, told a couple years ago, "Exercise 45-minutes every day."
There I was pushing myself up a long hill as Eliot's words whirled around my head, "Only those who will risk going too far can possibly find out how far one can go." While riding around my subdivision, there is not much to do while peddling other than to think. I have biked around this subsection for more than a decade...thinking.
There I was thinking and agreeing with Eliot's one-liner, "Only those who will risk going too far can possibly find out how far one can go." However, how does that apply to me? As I sweated and thought, I recalled what Confucius said, which is essentially the same thing, "It doesn't matter how slowly you go as long as you do not stop."
Then down a hill, I went onto a long flat stretch. I pondered what Eliot and Confucius had written. Finally, I had peddled around the lake to another hill, and it all started to come together. Like Steve jobs said about connecting the dots. Jobs stated that when you look back upon the dots, it is then that you will connect the dots and understand. As the hill approached, I morphed Eliot, Confucius, and Jobs together.
I resolved to push harder up the hill. My adrenaline flowed as I attacked the hill. When I got to the top, I recalled doing RAGBRAI, which is a 500-mile race across Iowa. My son, Scott, and I did the RAGBRAI 15-years ago. Some of those hills were quite steep and attacking them was not the first thing that came into mind as I approach them. However, there I was a decade and a half latter attacking a hill at nearly 72-years of age.
As I headed down the other side, I had two nearly simultaneous thoughts rush around my head as the breeze rushed around me. My first thought was feeling good about attacking the hill. The other was the question, why coast down a hill that I had attacked going up it? Therefore, I attacked peddling downhill also.
As I write this essay, my mind started wondering what Dr. Marchand would say about what I learned from Eliot and Confucius. Interestingly, my next appointment is in less than three weeks; I am sure to write about his comment. Then my mind wandered to Lance Armstrong and wondered what he would think about his Doubletree Lake Estate protégé's biking attitude.
While I look back on my personal conundrum and feel like now I am good to go, my question is whether my readers benefited from my connecting all the dots. Trust me. Eliot was correct, "Only those who will risk going too far can possibly find out how far one can go."
Visit the On Seeing the Light page to read more about this topic.
Visit the Connecting the Dots page to read more about this topic.
Visit the Darkest Before Dawn page to read more about this topic.
Visit The Mentors and Me page to read more about this topic.
Visit the Confucius Said page to read more about this topic.
Visit the Dancing with Death page to read more about this topic.