What you do, or: Don’t do

‘The Art of Being Human’

a d’Verse poetics prompt

EPIGRAPH:

What a piece of work is a man! How noble in reason, how infinite in faculty! In form and moving how express and admirable! In action how like an angel, in apprehension how like a god! The beauty of the world. The paragon of animals. And yet, to me, what is this quintessence of dust?

William Shakespeare (1564 – 1616), ‘Hamlet’
This being human is poetry ~
 
              No.

This being, human, is defined, defied ~ by lines imaginary;
knowing he doesn't know his worth ~ knowing leaves him weary;

This, being human, is, primarily ~ his greatest aspiration;
aspiring, perhaps, to believe he is ~ some greater being's creation;

This, being, Human, is merely what ~ has been bestowed upon you;
You're born, you die, and in between ~ being human's what we all do

The prompt

The above poem is my take on d’Verse’s ‘The Art of Being Human’ prompt.

The challenge is to write a metaphor poem that starts with the words ‘This being human is’, which comes to us from Rumi’s poem ‘The Guest House’, which you may read below.

In truth, my poem is not a metaphor, but this is what came to me. At first, I was thinking of writing something like ‘being human is a poem’ and then exploring the similarities between the two, but that’s simply not where my heart and mind wanted to go this morning.


‘The guest house’ by Rumi

This being human is a guest house.
Every morning a new arrival.​ 

A joy, a depression, a meanness,
some momentary awareness comes
as an unexpected visitor. 

​Welcome and entertain them all!
Even if they’re a crowd of sorrows
who violently sweep your house
empty of its furniture,
still, treat each guest honorably.
He may be clearing you out
for some new delight.

The dark thought, the shame, the malice,
meet them at the door laughing,
and invite them in.

​Be grateful for whoever comes,
because each has been sent
as a guide from beyond.

Possibility

I prefer keeping in mind even the possibility that existence has its own reason for being, which is precisely why I cannot call myself an atheist. It is why I occasionally recite the appropriate Jewish blessings before eating and am jealous of those who believe in supernatural forces that imbue their lives with purpose. It is why, in part, I was driven to recite the Orphan’s Kaddish daily during the year following Papa’s death. After all, who the heck knows? I sure don’t.

I prefer keeping in mind even the possibility that existence has its own reason for being, but I wish I could know the unknowable truth, one way or another. Is the universe ordered? Do our lives have meaning? Is suffering purposeful? I have not personally experienced anything to suggest that any of these possibilities are true; but would that they were…


d’Verse

It’s prosery time at d’Verse. The rules are simple:

  1. Use an assigned line in the body of your prose. You may change the punctuation and capitalization, but you are not allowed to insert any words within the line itself. You can add words at the beginning and/or at the end of the line; but the line itself must remain intact.
  2. Your prose can be either flash fiction, nonfiction, or creative nonfiction. YOU CAN NOT WRITE A POEM for this prompt. AND, your prose should be no longer than 144 words, sans title. It does not have to be exactly 144 words. But it can be no longer than 144 words.

The assigned line was:

I prefer keeping in mind even the possibility that existence has its own reason for being.

Wisława Szymborska (1923-2012), ‘Possibilities’

A quick note:

Usually I respond to d’Verse prosery prompts with pieces of fiction, but the assigned line from Szymborska’s poem spoke directly to my heart, and I had been wanting to write a short piece like this regardless.

Some of my best friends are anonymous

On the one hand…

When I step back and think about it, the blogosphere seems such a strange realm; and I’m old enough to have grown up without the Internet so I have perspective on this. Still, one need not have been born before the Internet era to be struck be the notable differences between people’s “in person” relationships and “online” relationships.

For example, what would it mean to have an anonymous “in person” friend? Here on WordPress, on the other hand, it’s entirely normal that some of the people that I interact with most regularly are anonymous.

Also, for most who do not blog anonymously, there necessarily exist limits as to what we can comfortably post because our blogs are public. Would we write publicly about difficulties in our romantic relationships, careers, childhoods, etc., given that our loved ones, coworkers, and friends could read those posts?

Indeed, while I certainly believe that meaningful relationships can be birthed, developed, and sustained online, we must consider how much we actually know of our “long distance” friends. given that we have, essentially, no access to their lives other than the glimpses they grant us. What are they like offline? What are we like?


On the other hand…

Speaking personally, I tend to feel disconnected from many of the people I interact with in person, largely because my head is often very much in the clouds. So many others seem to be focused on practical, earthly matters that wear me out.

Despite my skepticism regarding anything supernatural, I find conversations about belief, the history of religion, the sociology of religion, etc., very stimulating. Also, politics – deep political analysis fascinates me. And, of course, poetry – the exploration of the human spirit and reality filtered through the human eye.

In a sense, therefore, when I think about this blog on WordPress, and when I find myself wondering how well it actually reflects who I am despite all that I omit from it, I feel that it actually reflects much of the real me. This is where I thrive, in the realm of words and concepts, which lend themselves to introspection, poetry, and musings. These are the kinds of interactions I wish I could have with people “in person” – I’d love for all of my conversations to be over images and verses.

Really, as I consider this further, I feel that one cannot possibly know me very well today without taking an active interest in my Skeptic’s Kaddish. Here is where I explore life’s meaning.

The way of life between

A personal prosery prompt

Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel wrote: “We are constantly dying alive. From the view point of temporality we are all dead except for a moment.”

It’s true, you know.

As we turn the calendar page to 2021, I think to myself: well, that was a moment.

Death on either side, the Rabbi said, the way of life between.

Actually, that’s not quite right.

Rabbi Nachman of Breslov famously said: “The whole world is a very narrow bridge. And the most important thing is not to be afraid.”

I am not afraid. I feel ready to face my coming moments. From my very limited perspective, they are both fleeting and countless, but counting them is a fool’s errand that I reject. It’s about making them count.

For example, the moments I spent writing this, and those you spent reading it… Those, I believe, were worth it.


d’Verse is taking a break for the holidays so there won’t be any prompts for a while…

So I’ll be trying out some prompts born of my mind instead!

I considered the idea of responding to prompts from other groups, but d’Verse satisfies my creative curiosity more than well enough – and I don’t want to spend all of my time responding to poetry prompts.


The rules of prosery are simple:

  1. Use an assigned line in the body of your prose. You may change the punctuation and capitalization, but you are not allowed to insert any words within the line itself. You can add words at the beginning and/or at the end of the line; but the line itself must remain intact.
  2. Your prose can be either flash fiction, nonfiction, or creative nonfiction. YOU CAN NOT WRITE A POEM for this prompt. AND, your prose should be no longer than 144 words, sans title. It does not have to be exactly 144 words. But it can be no longer than 144 words.

The line I assigned myself was:

Death on either side, the Rabbi said, the way of life between.

Robert Hayden (1913-80), ‘The Broken Dark’ (a poem)

I came across this line as I was reading through some of Hayden’s poems in his ‘Collected Poems’. Robert Hayden was an American poet, essayist, and educator. He served as Consultant in Poetry to the Library of Congress from 1976 to 1978, a role today known as US Poet Laureate; and he was the first African-American writer to hold the office.

His experience of racial difference was bittersweet. Hayden passed his earliest years in a section of Detroit (later nicknamed Paradise Valley) that remained racially diverse until an influx of Southern blacks in search of jobs, followed by reactive white flight, turned it virtually all-black. His early familiarity with Jews, Germans, Italians, and other whites, reflected in several of his poems, perhaps laid the foundation for the transracial philosophy that is a hallmark of Hayden’s art. Attending a mainly white high school, he felt both a degree of ostracism and, at the same time, a degree of acceptance and understanding support.

-Arnold Rampersad (1941-), afterword to ‘Collected Poems’