“At home I dream that at Naples, at Rome, I can be intoxicated with beauty, and lose my sadness,” Ralph Waldo Emerson wrote in his 1841 essay, “Self-Reliance.” “I pack my trunk, embrace my friends, embark on the sea, and at last wake up in Naples, and there beside me is the stern fact, the sad self, unrelenting, identical, that I fled from.”
Ralph Waldo Emerson (May 25, 1803 – April 27, 1882), who went by his middle name Waldo, was an American essayist, lecturer, philosopher, abolitionist, and poet who led the transcendentalist movement of the mid-19th century. He was seen as a champion of individualism and a prescient critic of the countervailing pressures of society, and his ideology was disseminated through dozens of published essays and more than 1,500 public lectures across the United States.
Some people are never content. Still others like that old darling Waldo are flabbergasted to learn that upon arrival at their expectant destination they’ve come with their baggage. Even without the baggage I suspect I would be heartily disappointed to see anyone other than myself à côté so to speak. I am not saying I do not dream; but when I do dream the least accommodation of it is seldom that I came along for the ride! What sort of ineffable voyage had he anticipated? Was it something more akin to Star Wars – just zapping oneself onto another planet without leaving home?
Nor am I one to foster the Tommaso d’Aquino approach to life; viz., take the best and boil it done to the least. That in my opinion is a perversion of essence to deprivation. Not to mention his preposterous pronouncements including the Principle of Double Effect and other predominantly Roman Catholic intellectual fabrications and gymnastics designed to confute common sense merely by intolerability of weight. Frankly, for me, a quixotic island whether in the Aegean Sea or along the North Atlantic Ocean (where at the moment I happen to be) are very likely to induce an unfettered glamour and overall providence. I will however confess that as each day progresses – and as time commensurately dwindles – my sensitivities to everyday occurrences are heightened to the point that almost nothing is considered inconsequential. The unity of life is impossible to overlook. Again and again the most unimaginable detail connects with another of noticeable import. If anything is transpiring within the scope of my private decomposition it is an awakening not to the meaninglessness of life requiring ethereal transport for either fecundity or survival but rather a renewed clarity of the once incalculable details of life which have by contrast become so prolific as to afford an unwitting richness.
Adopting as I do the theory of the criminologist in the “Rocky Horror Picture Show” as an abstraction of my own mute existence; namely,
“And crawling on the planet’s face, some insects called the human race. Lost in time. And lost in space… and meaning.”
I haven’t an especially dynamic view of life other than sourcng the recognizably communal and productive features of ants for example. And by way of defence to this seeming diminutive regard for life I hasten to add that I equally consider it nothing short of astounding that creatures as tiny and unimpressive as ants yet achieve such extraordinary accomplishment by similarly inexplicable circuit the bounds of which are so far removed from my comprehension that I am disinclined to presume.
Acknowledging one’s capacity for bewilderment is the preamble to removal from a impenetrable dream-like state of mind to one of penetrable reality. Granted it may require its own preliminary distillation to overcome the burden of despondency, ill-health or chronic pain that in old age especially so often characterizes the awakened state of mind. These fractionations are for me no more charismatic than the morning ablutions, making one’s bed and refreshing one’s smalls. Oh, and a generous gargle of Listerine! Okay, and maybe a car wash. But other than that – and of course a healthful breakfast of sliced green apple and steel cut oats – all should be in readiness to proceed! Thus adorned and fed it is by virtue of those strengths alone difficult to imagine a less than inviting path upon which to tread, upon which to launch one’s acquaintance with another dazzling day upon the planet’s face! A splash of gusto may enhance any lingering hesitation to the first step into the abyss – like Indiana Jones metaphorically dreaded from here to eternity. Yet the leap is by the same token the only alternative. Incredulity succumbs to hopefulness, hesitation to determination, ignorance to discovery. All the while the physical barriers decode to mere fleeting inadequacy.