Just a couple of days ago in my posting Musings- Living Life (Lost Treasures), I shared and made comments on several quotations that had come to light as I was going through some old files. Another piece of writing that has surfaced is a poem by Pablo Neruda, a Chilean writer and politician.
He was born in 1904 and died in 1973. Pablo Neruda was actually his pen name, which he eventually made his legal name. He travelled extensively during his life as a consul or in other diplomatic roles for his native country. But he is more famously known for his prolific poetry.
Neruda’s works have been translated into many languages. In the literary world he is considered to be one of the greatest and most influential poets of the 20th century. I discovered this particular poem in an Italian book about ten years ago. It is one of those pieces of writing that at very first reading resonated deep within me. I’m sure there are better English translations of the poem, but here I offer you my own attempt.
To Slowly Die
He who chooses to become a slave to habit
Each day going in the same direction
Never changing gear,
He who does not dare to change the color of his clothes
Or speak to some perfect stranger……slowly dies.
He who chooses to avoid passion,
Prefers black and white and dots every “i”,
Rather than experiencing a whirlwind of emotions,
The ones that bring a sparkle to the eye and turn a yawn into a smile,
The same ones that make the heart beat wildly when a mistake is committed
Or feelings unexpectedly erupt ……..slowly dies
He who chooses not to overturn the table,
Or who is unhappy in his work,
Who does not risk security for insecurity to chase a dream,
Nor allows himself at least once in his lifetime
To ignore sensible advice ……..slowly dies.
He who does not travel,
Does not read, nor listens to music,
He who does not see his own gracefulness ……..slowly dies.
He who destroys his own sense of self,
Who refuses to be helped,
He who spends each day complaining about his own misfortune
Or the incessant rain …….. slowly dies.
He who abandons a project before it is begun,
He who never asks questions about things of which he is ignorant,
Or who refuses to reply to those
Who question him on things he does know …….. slowly dies.
We avoid death a little at a time,
Always remembering that to be alive requires an effort
Much greater than the simple fact of drawing a breathe.
Only intense patience will help us to achieve splendid happiness.
What an invitation to life and living! It makes me think of phrases like, “mix things up a little”. It reminds me of Erma Bombeck’s urging to “don’t save the best china for a special occasion, use it today”. It reminds me to get out there in the middle of things, to get out of myself (that old me-me-me-ism!!!) and help others less fortunate. It reminds me to be oh so grateful to God for the incredible life that I have and for the joy that fills my heart as I awake to yet another day.
Today I was clearing out the small cabinet and drawer in my computer desk (a job long overdue!), and I came across some old files. All of you pack-rats out there will relate when I tell you there were all kinds of things stuffed in the files. Much of it needed to be purged but, as often happens with me, I found some real treasures.
Among the papers, many of them somewhat yellowed from age, I found several quotations that I had written down and saved. The two that I will share with you today talk about the same thing, living life, each one in a slightly different style. The first one has a name attached to it, while the second is anonymous.
“You, with all your flaws, have been chosen for this opportunity to consciously taste life, to know it for what it is, and to make of it what you are able. This gift of a conscious life is grace, even when your life is filled with great difficulty and it may not feel like a gift at the time.”
Actually this quotation was also accompanied by another quotation that I had written further down the page, still by Phillip Moffitt and still about life.
“Your life, with its unique pains and joys, can only be reconciled in your surrender to the truth of your experiences as they arise one moment after another, never fixed, always moving.”
What really stands out for me in these few lines is the invitation to live life in the moment, to be fully present to everyone and everything that you meet on your path. It also reminds us that life “ain’t just a bed of roses”. Actually the roses are there in abundance but to appreciate them fully we have to accept that they have thorns and are sometimes surrounded by weeds. And I am reminded, again, of my friend Tish’s favorite saying: “it is what it is”.
The anonymous quotation that I found among my pack-rat treasures is almost an admonition or an instruction on what we have to do to live life fully.
“It costs so much to be a full human being that there are very few who have the enlightenment or the courage to pay the price ………. One has to abandon altogether the search for security and reach out to the risk of living with both arms ……….one has to embrace the world like a lover……….one has to accept pain as a condition of existence……one has to court doubt and darkness as the cost of knowing…….one needs a will stubborn in conflict, but apt always to total acceptance of every consequence of living and dying.”
I have certainly had my share of pains and difficulties, many self inflicted directly or indirectly. But I have also had a great share of joys and happiness. In my own experience the joys and the happiness have multiplied a thousand fold since I have given up the pursuit of me-me-me-ism and have focused more fully on my relationship to and with the God of my understanding. Which reminds me of the quotation by Paul Ferrini that I cited just over a week ago in Shared Wisdom- Words Both Past & Present.
Certainly I have learned as I live my life that I have to approach each day, sometimes each breath, with as large a measure of humility as courage. Oh, I could choose to bulldoze my way through situations and over people the way I used to. But I prefer the peace of mind that I have today by showing compassion towards everyone I meet. We are all on our own journey and some of us have chosen very difficult paths.