Now as I was young and easy under the apple boughs
About the lilting house and happy as the grass was green…
Time held me green and dying
Though I sang in my chains like the sea
Fern Hill by Dylan Thomas (1914 – 1953)
Nature’s influence is not only undeniable, it is uncompromising and unavoidable. Consider for example the unfathomable strength of gravity. The inscrutable moon governs the ebb and flow of the churning tides. This remarkable power – dare I say like our own ungovernable constitution – is neither to be ignored, neglected nor diminished. The result though predictable is not for that reason alone to be discounted. The regularity of the tides prohibits stagnancy and assures refreshment. Nature’s persuasiveness can be just as salubrious for humanity. Something there is delightfully axiomatic about nature’s irrepressible force. In the context of the human persona, “You are what you are“. Yet in spite of inherent pushes and pulls the possibilities of discovery and expression are infinite. Nature is but the cacoon of personality, the compasses of our existence not the definition of it.
How extraordinary it is that as we crawl from the moment of birth and trudge to the inevitable end we unwittingly express our being! We too sing in our chains like the sea. It is however at times a process which is more comfortable for some than others. The hard fact of fortuity – that Wild Card of nature – is equally inarguable and compelling though perhaps not always welcome. But whatever the reception, what nature dishes out is what we get, the clay of our making. In spite of its determinative quality, there is a liberality in confessing its inalterability. There is no use fighting it, literally go with the flow. How utterly relieving it is to submit to nature’s manifestation!
So often we regrettably assess our Pilgrim’s Progress in the context of external standards. The regret is that we then fail to appreciate – must less acknowledge – the flavour and texture of our peculiar self.
The Pilgrim’s Progress from This World to That Which Is to Come; Delivered under the Similitude of a Dream is a 1678 Christian allegory written by John Bunyan.
The entire book is presented as a dream sequence narrated by an omniscient narrator. The allegory’s protagonist, Christian, is an everyman character, and the plot centres on his journey from his hometown, the “City of Destruction” (“this world”), to the “Celestial City” (“that which is to come”: Heaven) atop Mount Zion. Christian is weighed down by a great burden—the knowledge of his sin—which he believed came from his reading “the book in his hand” (the Bible).
We are no more capable of changing our development than a rose may become a tree. In the seed of our being is written the history of our life. This isn’t to suggest we haven’t the capacity for improvement or refinement, but rather that we should accept our substance with appreciation and gusto. How we conjoin the ingredients of our life is always within our scope but the extent of those ingredients is normally contained, just as the mighty Oceans themselves must relent to the power of nature. It is no failure to do so. In fact it is a greater compliment to rejoice in one’s parameters – to sing in one’s chains like the sea.