25 February 2011

A tattered coat upon a stick, unless...

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Sailing to Byzantium by W.B. Yeats

That is no country for old men. The young
In one another's arms, birds in the trees
- Those dying generations - at their song,
The salmon-falls, the mackerel-crowded seas,
Fish, flesh, or fowl, commend all summer long
Whatever is begotten, born, and dies.
Caught in that sensual music all neglect
Monuments of unageing intellect.

An aged man is but a paltry thing,
A tattered coat upon a stick, unless
Soul clap its hands and sing, and louder sing
For every tatter in its mortal dress,
Nor is there singing school but studying
Monuments of its own magnificence;
And therefore I have sailed the seas and come
To the holy city of Byzantium.

O sages standing in God's holy fire
As in the gold mosaic of a wall,
Come from the holy fire, perne in a gyre,
And be the singing-masters of my soul.
Consume my heart away; sick with desire
And fastened to a dying animal
It knows not what it is; and gather me
Into the artifice of eternity.

Once out of nature I shall never take
My bodily form from any natural thing,
But such a form as Grecian goldsmiths make
Of hammered gold and gold enamelling
To keep a drowsy Emperor awake;
Or set upon a golden bough to sing
To lords and ladies of Byzantium
Of what is past, or passing, or to come.

Been awhile. Always after any time away I sense the distance between the Spirit and the Flesh. Yeat's "sick with desire/ And fastened to a dying animal." Images here of dogs with balloons tied to their tails. Running in crazy circles in their youth, threatening to pop that balloon at every turn. Then the time where there is a coming to terms, some measure of integration. Each moves equally weighted. Finally, the old dog curled up around the balloon - the only comfort left. Riddles of the Sphinx: "gather me/ Into the artifice of eternity."

And here and now in Bellingham, I am working again in the Gymnasium of the Flesh. Incarnating the Paedia, as I see it. At times, envisioning Toynbee's challenge and response. Civilizations rise and fall under the increasing weight of time. The 21st century ordinary life is just too easy. Not enough resistance. Everyone has grown fat and lazy. Words like pudgy seem to describe the masses of men and women. I cannot help but see the physical form as an extension of the mental. I look in the mirror and see the thousands of Lilliputian failures of my day drawing out their ropes over me.

I would cut that balloon from the dog in an act of simple mercy. But I cannot. I feel the eyes of the thing upon me. I am his only friend. There is time. Perhaps, hope. Small measures. Enough to increase the weight or the number of repetitions again, to gather up the line and pull the Spirit down, back into the Meat, to close the eyes and burn with the incarnation. There is time.

And so, I begin. Again.