I Will Rage
This is one of my essays that I start with the phrase, “I want to get all my cards on the table….” I have mentioned many times about having to memorize poetry and prose in high school English classes. I hated memorizing but after leaving high school and throughout my life, I have benefited from that once hated requirement. Much of my Weltanschauung regarding life can be seen by the poetry and prose that I still can recall from a half century ago.
One of the poems that I memorized was by Dylan Thomas, Do Not Go Gently Into That Good Night. I memorized that poem and seemed to enjoy what Thomas was saying poetically. Rebelling was what teenagers are into and the poem seemed to resonate within me…when I was 18.
Nonetheless, in my twilight time remaining at the other end of life, I get Thomas’ poem now. The two things that awoke me to living life were my two dances with death. Once I got those pieces of my puzzle of life together, I realized that I am a new person. I realize that my death is closer than it was at 18…much closer.
Now, some have done the dance…successfully and merely moved on, which for me negates their success. The realization of our mortality allows us to either survive but not change our lives, or it forces us to awake and act. At this point in my life, the pieces are all coming together. Teddy Roosevelt was dealing this rage in Man in the Arena.
Roosevelt was presently precisely what Thomas saw. Either you live a life “daring greatly”/“rage against the dying of the light” or you will be “with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat”/or they “learn, too late, they grieved it on its way.” Now, daring greatly or raging does not assure success. Nevertheless, not daring and raging does assure failure.
My clock is ticking and so is yours. We can’t guarantee success at our labors, nor can we guarantee waking up tomorrow morning. Dylan Thomas died at the age of 39. I can’t speak for you, but that realization of how much time that remains for me in this world motivates me. I may fail at many of my quests. George Eliot said, “It is never too late to be what you might have been.” However, it will be too late when we are on our death beds then wishing that we tried harder is a sad regret, but it is too late.
The single realization of my finiteness is a blessing. It forces me to engage in the issues that I think are important. Now, to be honest with you, I have a long, long list of things that I want to accomplish before the lights go out for me. Here are the critical and immediate ones for me. I want to interview Aung San Suu Kyi, which is the most important thing that I hope to accomplish in my entire life. I want Donald the Dumb to resign or be impeached. I want to work toward improving issues like civil rights, feminism, and the LGBT community. I want to help my children and grandchildren. However, this is especially true with my grandchildren: Ayanna, Ti Ti, Jack, and Owen. I want to continue to teach student at the college level. I want to travel. And finally, I want to take care of Ginger.
Finally, this was Dylan Thomas’ office.
This is my office with Ginger watching me “Rage, rage against the dying of the light.”
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