The Deadly Force of Chance
Species - The Force of Chance - devil may care - I Know Not Seems - Lear - Khayyam
The hammer of inevitability
Breaks the hardest backs,
From ankylosaurus to the cockroach.
And we're far more fragile than these.
The Force of Chance
To die, to sleep, / To sleep, perchance to dream; aye, there's the rub, / For in that sleep of death, what dreams may come, / When we have shuffled off this mortal coil, / Must give us pause ... the dread of something after death, / The undiscovered country, from whose bourn / No traveller returns, puzzles the will ... (Hamlet 3.1)
Atheism is the corner in a room
that one doesn't really choose
for who would choose
to die and never come back
Where is that country beyond whose bourn?
Where has that traveller gone?
To be and then not to be
only to sleep
at which dreary point
you’ll wish you were a microphage
even the type that does’t move
one-sixteenth of an inch
devil my care
i have to admit he looked pretty cool
smoking that cigarette
as if telling the world that he didn't care
he wasn't afraid of anything
he was beyond all that
the whining and the sniffling
the cardiogram and the radiation
he had super-powers that would protect him
and drowning in his own blood
the devil may care, but he didn't
I Know Not Seems
Seems, madam? Nay it is. I know not seems. / 'Tis not alone my inky cloak, good mother, / Nor customary suits of solemn black, / [...that] can denote me truly. These indeed seem, / For they are actions that a man might play: / But I have that within which passes show, / These but the trappings and the suits of woe. (Hamlet 1.2.78-89)
To be is always better than not to be
although no cables stretch from one side to the next
(it's only in children's tales
that one can go through a mirror
or enter a magic wardrobe
that takes you, as if in a conjurer's trick
to another world, wide as England)
You can never see both sides at once
unless you’re like that little boy in the movie
who has a magic sixth sense
I see dead people
or unless you believe the religious dreamers
whose dreams seem to mean all sorts of things
And he dreamed, and behold a ladder set up on the earth, and the top of it reached to heaven; and behold, the angels of God ascending and descending on it. (Genesis 28.12)
It’s so hard to see the things they dream about
that one might conclude there are more things in the starry heavens
and on the watery Earth than are dreamt of in their theology
In the mean time
while we're still wearing these inky cloaks
here on the lowest rung
dreams are only dreams
and to be is not to seem
And so it seems to me that being , not seeming
may be the most authentic thing to be
All those other numbers
the 7 veils of mysticism, the 12 tribes
and the 666 evils of the secular world
all dissolve upon closer inspection
Yet still, they sound so fine
when they add up to Perfection
and when Plato’s mathematics climb
like spiritual bodies
in a laddered Resurrection
The grown man becomes a baby,
the King a pauper, the athlete a paraplegic.
We live in the glory, or at the mercy, of chemistry and physics.
Sooner or later, King Lear will rage in the waste land,
and beg for scraps. He’ll tell trembling Edgar:
Unaccommodated man is no more but such a poor,
bare, forked animal as thou art.
And yet we cannot stop ourselves from dreaming
that we understand,
that we grasp what's going on,
and that in some way we control the storm,
standing tall on our barren heaths.
The meaning of life may well lie somewhere else,
but until it does, genetic codes and facts will have to do.
It's a working theory
that Farid ud-Din* had yet to scent —
an attar of the field rose
undressed in gauze or gold.
The dream of an ordered cosmic space —
from the Sufi's twirling Atoms
to Augustine's City of God
with its golden spires piercing the firmament
and Vishnu floating in outer space —
must yield, for now, to the telescope's prying eye.
The wondrous yoke of soul and sense
must yield to medicine, habit, and chance events.
The circle of life may yet be found
to make a greater meaning, round and round.
One day all things incomplete may be released
into some greater Scheme of Things complete.
Yet time has never been a prophet's friend
and where we started is not, alas, where we will end.
They told him God would be his friend
and be there with him to the end.
They told him seek and he would find,
yet when he got there in the end
he didn't know what God was, nor what was mind.
The human machine runs up, runs down
and leaves us hobbling on the ground.
* Farid ud-Din Attar was a Persian Sufi poet who wrote The Conference of the Birds (1177). Attar was a pharmacist, and the word attar (fragrance) comes from Persian. While Attar shared some of Khayyam's imagery, he didn't share the latter's secular and sensual sensibilities.