Recently, my son did a project on Dylan Thomas, and asked me, which poem would best represent him? Tough question, but since poetry is so subjective, I said it would have to be Do Not Go Gently Into That Good Night. Dylan’s own father was going blind and dying when he wrote this and it tore him to pieces to see such a vital man slowly deteriorate. I felt a similar thing when my mother began to die. You want to shake them out of it, tell them to rage, rage against the dying of the light. Please don’t give up. Summon your will to live. Rage.
What I don’t understand is when I meet perfectly healthy people, in the middle of their lives, acting like they are dying. Everything is impossible, everything is a burden, all is lost, they are…getting old. Rage, Rage, against the dying of the light. When you dream out loud, these folks roll their eyes, or point out how impossible, idiotic even, your reaching appears to be, your hands held open to life versus coiled in a clenched fist of no.
Live audaciously. These are the words that came to me as my friend talked about his heartbreaking boredom with his job. Rage, rage against the dying of the light… Waking on this New Year’s Eve, I read John Koethe’s poem, Fear of the Future, and in it he writes about this state of non-living so well:
A character of no strong attachments
Who made nothing happen, and to whom
Nothing ever actually happened—a fictitious
Man whose life was over from the start,
Like a diary or a daybook whose poems
And stories told the same story over
And over again, or no story.
This will not be my life. Failures may plague me, disappointments lay a carpet below my feet as I run, impossibly hopeful, to my future but my life will tell a wonderful, passionate, deeply lived story. And I will have known I did all that I could before the dying of my light.
What fear will you abandon, how will you rage against the dying of the light in 2011?