HAPPY HALLOWEEN: AN INTERVIEW WITH DEATH – Marilyn Armstrong

My fame as An Important Blogger has spread beyond the realm of the living into the nether regions as I went searching for a character to interview. Death popped right up and volunteered. I wasn’t sure he was entirely fictional but eventually decided most people don’t believe he’s real, so he qualifies.

He has been hanging around here far too much lately.

When you meet Death, your first impression is of a quiet, retiring fellow. The kind of guy you’d never even notice. He walks silently, accompanied only by a faint rustling, like fabric gently ruffled by a breeze. You notice his nearness when folks disappear permanently. Like in a bad science fiction movie, characters keep vanishing without a trace.

I suppose it goes with the territory, but I have a few questions for the old buzzard.  Speaking of old,  Death does not look old. His face is unlined. He could be forty. Or two hundred and forty. His voice seemed a murmur, yet I had no trouble hearing every word he spoke. I didn’t know a stage whisper could be so loud.

Let the interview commence!


ME: I know you get everyone, eventually. It seems you’ve been taking away my crowd. Is this a Karmic thing? Have we been particularly wicked?

DEATH: Not really. You’re a hard-living crowd, but not bad in the sense of righteous or not righteous. Everyone gets a limited amount of hard living. A lot of your kinsmen used up their portion early.

ME: So partying causes an early demise?

DEATH: Not partying. Living hard. That includes working hard, worrying, not resting properly. Wears out your spirit, not just your bones. Of course, there is also a DNA component. Some of you are heartier than others. You have bodies — and souls — that can take more abuse. And the opposite. Some people aren’t resilient.

ME: Abuse? What do you mean by “abuse?”

DEATH: Drugs, booze. Insufficient sleep. Stress. Danger. Never taking the time to step back and understand what’s happened to you. It’s all part of the equation.

ME: I don’t suppose you’d let me in on the equation? Like how you calculate life and death?

DEATH: {Looks amused}

ME: Moving right along, is there anything we can do to score a few extra points with you? On the plus side, I mean.

DEATH: I’m tough but fair. Like a good coach.

ME: I never played on a team.

DEATH: Let us not bandy words. You get my drift. They use that line on every cop show on television. I know you watch TV. I’ve come round and sat with you on many an evening.

ME: {I shiver} Maybe too much television.

DEATH: Television is good stuff. Extends your life. I’m such a fan! {Death chuckles and sends a chill down my spine} Unless I’m under special orders, I never take anyone who’s watching a good show or a playoff game. Have I mentioned how much I loved Law & Order? That was a great show. I was upset when it ended. I related to it.

ME: How’s that?

DEATH: Catching bad guys, making judgments. Deciding whether to lock them up forever or hand them to me. Well, I can tell you, we don’t “do” locking up where I come from. I always take’em out of the game.

ME: So there’s no Hell?

DEATH: Did I say that?

ME: Never mind. Why so many good people? Young people? Even little children and babies?

DEATH: I have a degree of discretion, but if the Boss says “that one,” there’s no further discussion. He’s got his agenda. I follow orders. Age, sex, ethnicity, color. Sexual orientation. Don’t care, don’t discriminate. To me — us — you’re all customers.

{This made me uncomfortable. I shifted in my seat. Death noticed, of course. I could see the twinkle in his pale eyes. He was enjoying my discomfort.}

DEATH: We met before. Yes, I remember. You were young the first time. A teenager. But I was told you could choose to stay or go. You stayed. Not many people get to choose. Before you ask, I have no idea why. Just following orders. Then … what, ten, twelve years ago? You were in my court, but someone in the boss’s office told me to push you back to the other side. How did that work out for you?

ME: Obviously it worked. I’m here.

DEATH: I congratulate you. You are one of the few I’ve brushed against twice who’s still on this side.

Death cust serv

At that point, I realized I needed to end the interview. Beads of sweat were breaking out along the back of my neck. I didn’t like the way my interviewee was looking at me. I felt like a bag of potatoes in a supermarket.

ME: Time to wrap this up.

DEATH: {Grinning} You think, probie?

ME: I just wanted to ask you a couple of quick questions about some of your movie roles.

DEATH: “The Seventh Seal (1957)” — Ingmar Bergman’s black & white classic — is by far my favorite. I think I should have gotten a nomination at least. After that — John Huston’s 1969 “A Walk with Love and Death” was pretty good.

ME: Do you have favorite periods in history?

DEATH: You can’t beat the 14th century. I was the King of all I surveyed! I ruled. All good things come to an end, I suppose. Not to worry. My time will come again. From the way you humans are messing around with the Earth, not to mention breeding lethal viruses in labs? I’d say it’ll be my time again soon. That whole fracking thing. Wow, what could go wrong with that, eh?

I also want to mention war. I love war. That humans make war is how I know you love me. Sending off your best and brightest to die in the mud — stabbed, shot, mutilated, mowed down. Blown up. Shattered. It’s a love poem to me.

ME: Well, that’s about all the time we have for today. Let’s get together again real soon.

DEATH: {Evil smile} I think the next time we meet will be the last time.

And he gathered up his black robes and slid from the room, dark as a shadow, soundlessly.

{Fade to black}

GAME OF LIFE AND THE MEANING OF EVERYTHING – Marilyn Armstrong

I pick these up from Melanie B Cee at:

sparksfromacombustiblemind –
EMBERS FROM SOMEONE DOGGEDLY TRYING TO MAKE SENSE OF IT ALL

She gets them elsewhere so I’ll pass it upward and she can pass it forward or backward. Whichever. Chainmail has never worked well for me.

This is an interesting bunch of questions. I probably would have been more amusing with them when I was younger. I’ve pretty much settled down.

The Rules …

1] Leave the Permanent Questions [PQ] always in place PLEASE.

2] Reblog should you so desire

3] If you do reblog, a pingback would always be welcomed so l don’t miss it.

4] This is a non-tagger/ non-nomination game.

Today’s questions are perhaps a little bit more taxing, however, this is the way of life as we know it, and there is never anything wrong with a little bit of thought provocation is there?


Questions:


Q1] What is your take on ‘free will?’

I will restate something someone said to me many years ago. “Life,” she said, “is a room. There’s furniture there. You can sit on the sofa or a chair. Or even on the floor. But you can’t leave the room because that’s your room. And your life.”

Personally, I tend to view it more as a bus. We get on the bus when we are born and we go traveling. We don’t really know where we are going or when the bus will stop. We are not driving the bus and whenever we try to drive, we discover we actually don’t know how. Our attempts to drive are often rudely interrupted by a reality we didn’t expect. We can sit anywhere we like, enjoy the company of other travelers, and occasionally, when the bus stops for fuel, we get to wander around in some strange and new place if we so choose.

We don’t know how long the trip will take or exactly where we will end up. Somewhere. Hopefully somewhere we love.

The single thing we can never do is drive the bus. Whenever we are certain we are (finally) in control, we soon discover we are not. We have free will, but only to a point.

Q2] We all ask ourselves at one time or another what is the point?  So what is the point to our existence?

I’m not sure there IS a point.

Q3] What do you believe about Fate and Karma?

I don’t know. It depends on when you ask me. Mostly, I don’t know.

Q4] As a species, how do you think humans will become extinct or do you believe that we will not?

I think we will go extinct, but I also believe the universe will become extinct and the sun will blow up. Nothing lasts forever.

PQ5] What is your belief with regards the meaning of life?

Another “I don’t know.” Does life have a meaning? Or is life itself the meaning?

Q6] Ok, fess up, do you believe in aliens from outer space – is there really other life out there in the far-reaching galaxies beyond our own?

I assume there is something out there that is intelligent. I’m also pretty sure we either haven’t met them, or they dropped by, took one look, decided we were hopeless and left.

PQ7] What is your best quote for ‘living life?’

Life is short. Eat dessert first.

Q8] What doesn’t kill us – makes us stronger – yes or no? Explain.

That is one of those placebo explanations that people use when they don’t know what else to say. Many things ARE stronger than us and yes, it can and does kill us. Many people I loved are dead. “It” didn’t make them stronger.

Q9] What would you say have been your biggest successes in life?

Still being here when I’m pretty sure I ought to be dead.

Q10] If you could find out the exact time and cause of your death – would you want to know?

No.

Q11] Is it more important to help yourself, help your family, help your society, or help the world?

All of the above, but I think I’ve helped my family to the extent that I am capable of helping. I think I’d rather try and help our society, such as it isn’t and after that, what’s left of our world.

PQ12] If humanity was put on trial by an advanced race of aliens, how would you defend humanity and argue for its continued existence?

I wouldn’t. I think as a race we don’t deserve our world.

Q13]  What is the biggest waste of human potential?

Our overall stupidity.

Q14] We often see those that write ‘what would you say to a younger you?’ However, what would you say today to a future you?

I would run like hell. Anything I said would be a disaster. And undoubtedly wrong in every possible way.

PQ15] Why do you think that as a species, humans need to believe in something? Be this religion, fate, karma, magical, mystique and so on.

I don’t think we need to believe in something. Many people don’t and they are just fine. Right and wrong are not religious principles. They are part of our DNA.

Q16] If we could not retain any of our memories – who would we be?

Jellyfish.

Q17] Time is such an important part of our world, but do you think you would notice if time was altered in any way?

It would depend. Am I still in this world? Am I in a parallel universe? Am I suffering hallucinations? Dementia?

Q18] How important is playing in living a healthy and fulfilling life?

Critical to development. If we don’t play, we do not grow. It is during play that we learn to lose, learn to make deals, learn how to arrange life to suit our needs.

Q19] With no laws or rules to influence your behavior, how do you think you would behave?

Exactly the way I do now, except hopefully, with many fewer bills to pay.

PQ20] Are you deleting any questions, if so which ones?

Nope. Just went with the flow.

Q21] Should euthanasia be legal? Why or why not?

Yes, because I think if we believe a dog in pain needs to be let out of his misery, why would we be less kind to a human being? But that’s an opinion. Not a fact. Everyone is entitled to their own opinion and I will respect it.

NEVER CAN SAY GOODBYE – Rich Paschall

JJ’s Night Out, by Rich Paschall


Jason was pacing the floor of the living room.  He was excited about his date night.  They were going to a new nightclub.  It had received nice reviews and he thought they could do a lot of dancing and singing.  Jason’s mom watched the pacing with a feeling of indifference, while his dad watched in what could best be described as “disgust.”

Soon Jason’s date would arrive. Jeff was a handsome young man who Jason had met at college.  Jeff fell immediately for the boy with the constant smile, and it did not take long for Jason to agree to a date.  After a short period of dating, they became constant companions.  Their friends began referring to them collectively as “JJ” since they always seemed to be together.

When Jeff arrived in his best preppy, all American look, he stopped in briefly to say hello to Jason’s parents and wish them a good evening.  Then Jason exclaimed, “Good night, mom,” and gave his mother a hug.  It was returned in a half-hearted fashion.

“See you later, dad,” Jason shouted at his father who was standing quite a distance away.

“Yeah,” his father returned with his most annoyed tone.  The father’s look was his best effort at contempt.  Jason just smiled and the boys set out for a night of fun.  They both hoped that someday Jason’s father would accept them as a couple.  Whether that happened or not, soon the boys would find an apartment, marry and be on their own.  They had their whole lives ahead and could not be too worried about whether they would find complete acceptance.  They had each other.  That was the main thing.

The two men enjoyed the new nightclub.  The music was loud, the drinks were cold and the atmosphere was electric.  Around midnight, Jeff leaned over and gave Jason a big kiss.  Since he was not prone to such public displays, Jason asked, “What was that for?”

Jeff replied, “Because I love you so much, my prince.”  At that Jason’s usual smile became even bigger.

At 4 am the phone rang at Jason’s home.  By the time his mother was awakened and realized it was the phone, the ringing stopped.  She started to drift off to sleep but 10 minutes later the phone was ringing again.  When she got up and got to the phone, it had stopped again.  The mother thought Jason forgot his key or was staying with Jeff.

“He really did not have to call about that,” she thought.  She waited by the phone another 10 minutes but it did not ring, so she went back to bed.

72-BW-Boston-Night_004Just as she was getting up around 7 am the front doorbell rang.  She thought, “This must be Jason.”  She put on her robe and walked to the door.  She opened it to find a uniformed police officer standing there.  Behind her was a man in plain clothes, but he was wearing a police badge on his belt.

“Are you Mrs. DeAngelo?”  the officer asked.

“Yes.”

“And is Jason DeAngelo your son?”

“Why?  What’s wrong? What happened?  Tell me, what is it?” she blurted out, trying not to sound hysterical.

“There has been a shooting at a nightclub.  I am afraid your son was one of the victim’s.  We are sorry for your  loss, Mrs. DeAngelo.”
Jason’s mother stood there absolutely frozen to the spot.  She had been kicked in the stomach and her breath had been taken away.

“Is it alright if we come in and ask a few questions?” the plainclothes police officer asked.

For a moment Mrs. DeAngelo could not speak.  Her eyes began to water and her brain was numb.  She was transported through time to a place of unspeakable sadness.  It was a place where senses momentarily failed her.

“Would you like us to come back?” the man asked.

“No,” she replied.  “Come in.”

Mr. DeAngelo joined them in the living room.  He immediately knew what had happened.  He stood there silently.  His wife answered all the questions.

For the next half hour, the two police officers queried Jason’s mom.  Did Jason go to the Club often?  Why did he go that night?  Was he with anyone?  Was he gay?  Did they know it was a gay nightclub and so on?  Mrs. DeAngelo answered as best she could.

Then they mentioned the name of the shooter which led to a new round of questions.  Did she ever hear the name before?  Did her son know him?  There were other questions too but they all became a blur to Mrs. DeAngelo.  After a while, she was not even sure what she was saying.

The uniformed officer concluded by saying the coroner’s office would be processing the dozens of bodies over the next few days and they would be in contact with them.  Both told the parents “We are sorry for your loss,” as they were leaving the house.

Mrs. DeAngelo softly closed the door behind them.  She grabbed a framed picture of Jason off a table and sat down on the sofa.  She stared at the picture as a tear formed in the corner of one eye.  She tried to envision Jason’s happy face as a child and his boundless energy.  She remembered the time she called him “my little terrier” because it seemed he could run for hours and then come and lay down right by her.  She did not move from that spot for a long time.

Mr. DeAngelo recalled the look he gave the boys the night before as they left for the club.

It was the only thing he could remember.

MR. CASTEN’S CLUTTER

Stuff, by Rich Paschall

Only his neighbor Jorge knew the old guy was sick.  In fact, Mr. Casten had been failing for almost two years.  Whenever Jorge saw the old man, he asked if there was anything he could do to help.  When Mr. Casten was not seen for a week, Jorge would go knock on his door.  If the old guy felt well enough he would stand in the doorway and talk for a while.  If it was morning, he would invite Jorge in for a cup of coffee.

By the time Casten had passed away, Jorge probably knew him as well as anyone.  Their little chats on the stairs, in the doorway or at the kitchen table revealed a lot about an old guy who had lived alone in the same small apartment most of his adult life.  The place was stuffed with memories and memorabilia.

Mr. Casten had collected and saved things throughout life, but in the last few years he tried to de-clutter his small existence.  He gave things away to charity resale shops.  He sent pictures he had from his parents on to other relatives.  He even sold some items on eBay.  It was all too late to clean up the house, however.  Mr. Casten’s small efforts were not enough after a lifetime of accumulation.

Since there were no siblings, no children, no mate, the matter of cleanup and disposal was left to a crew of cousins.  Jorge know just who to call as Mr. Casten had prepared a list of contacts in case of his untimely demise.  Although Mr. Casten was only in his late 60’s, his death arrived right on schedule the way Jorge saw it.  Mr. Casten has gone as far as he could.

When the cousins arrived one Saturday morning to clean out the apartment, Jorge was waiting with the key that had been entrusted to him by Mr. Casten.  Four cousins and two of their teen age sons figured they would make fast work of the four room apartment.  They figured wrong.

“Oh my, who knew one person could collect so much stuff,” cousin Raymond declared.  “This could take all day!”

“Mr. Casten said to tell you guys to be sure to take for yourselves anything you want, then give anything else that is still good to charity.”

“And did you take something, Jorge?” cousin David said in a rather accusing tone.

“Yes,” Jorge replied calmly.  “I took the coffee cup he always gave me to drink out of.  It was the only thing I wanted.”

“Well, I heard he had a good baseball card collection,” cousin Jeff chimed in.  “I would like to have that if we can find it.”

“He’s got a lot of CDs here,” Raymond said in amazement.  “I think I will see what I need.”

“Hey dad,” one of the teenagers shouted out to David.  “He’s got a lot of DVDs. I am going to see if he has anything decent to watch”

As they randomly picked through the goods, cousin John grabbed one of the teenagers and said, “Let’s get to work.  With those guys working so hard out there, we will never get out of here!”

So John and a bored teenager went to the kitchen in search of large garbage bags.  “Under the sink,” Jorge instructed.

Armed with a box of bags, Jorge, John and the teenager went to the bedroom to empty closets and drawers.  John told the teenager to take everything in the closets and put it in bags for donation.  If it looked in bad shape, he should put it in a separate bag for the garbage.  John decided to do the same with the dresser.

As John and Jorge took items from the dresser, they found many new things in each drawer.  There were clothes with tags, new socks and underwear in packages, pajamas that were never worn and sweaters that looked new.

“I thought the old guy could not afford much,” John said in amazement.

“I think he was always afraid of running out of something,” Jorge said.  “He told me more than once that he was afraid to be poor and have nothing, so he kept everything and did not use anything until he needed it.”

“If he lived another 10 years he would not have to buy any clothes,” John said somewhat incredulously.

“Yeah, I think that was the idea,” Jorge noted.

Mr. Casten’s mother had grown up in the Great Depression.  She had nothing, so in her adult life she saved everything.  Anything that had value or possible use, she would save for whenever she might need it.  Of course, she had many things she never used, but they were there “just in case.”

When Casten was young, he knew they did not have much and he saw how his mother managed to get through the years with what they accumulated.  He naturally took on the same habits.  While everything may have seemed a jumbled mess to outside observers, especially cousins who never came to call, it was an organized home for Mr. Casten.

After many runs to the resale shop and the outside garbage cans, the crew had made a good deal of progress.  John declared he would return with one of the boys to finish the job the next day.

“That box in the corner marked pictures should also say ‘Cousins’ on the top,” Jorge remembered to tell them. “You should take that with you.”

“What would we want with a box of old pictures?” David said rather sarcastically.

So Jorge explained that collection.  “Mr. Casten thought that maybe someone would want to see them at a wake or service to remember how he looked, since he had not been invited to any family event in years.  I would guess you guys would be in a lot of those pictures from long ago.”

The cousins said nothing.  John grabbed the box on the way out.

Jorge closed the door.

See also: “The Accumulation of Stuff,” Reducing Clutter

IS THERE LIFE WITHOUT COMPUTERS?

You see stuff online — Facebook mostly — about “could you live in this lovely (log cabin) house (in the middle of really nowhere) without WiFi? And everyone says “Oh sure! I could live in that great little house — in the middle of a huge woods by a cold lake where the nearest shopping center is 50 miles on dirt roads — forever without so much as a VOIP phone.

Sure you could. NOT.

I know I couldn’t and wouldn’t even want to try. Because that’s not life or at least not my life.

There was a time when I could imagine a life without computers. I think that was before I owned a computer, before every house everywhere had one or many computers. Before every single thing in the house got “connected” and computerized in some way. Before your toilet got so smart you have to argue with it about the whole “flushing” thing. Before we had things in the house that you could talk to and would more or less would run your house for you, even if you weren’t there personally.

To be clear, I don’t have any of those super smart appliances because while I dearly love WiFi, if the power is out I need to know the toilet will flush anyway and the refrigerator will keep the food cold as long as I don’t open the door. I want to be smarter than my toilet or refrigerator. Call me crazy, but I like to keep at least one leg up on life.

Yeats in Sligo
Yeats in Sligo

But life without any computers? Without a way to blog? Oh, I suppose I could use a typewriter …  but what would I do with it after that? There IS no blog without WiFi. And my wrists would not thank me.

Can I survive without Photoshop and Topaz filters? Without a Kindle? Or a GPS?

That sounds more like death than life.  A computer is not just email. It’s all kinds of communications and these days, it really IS communications. Pretty much all communications is electronic in one way or another. Photography and writing. Paying bills, shopping, and entertainment. Games. Keeping in touch with the world and the people in it, without whom life would be incredibly lonesome.

So if I must have a life without computers, I am probably dead. Unless there are afterlife computers. You know, from Comp-AfterLife.com? Those “special” computers so the undead can keep in touch?

“SCYTHE” BY NEAL SHUSTERMAN – ARC OF A SCYTHE, BOOK 1

Scythe By: Neal Shusterman

Audiobook narrated by: Greg Tremblay
Book 1: Arc of a Scythe

Every day, Audible.com (part of the Amazon group), offers one book at a huge discount. Often it’s an older book or a classic which, if I missed it along the way, I may buy. Sometimes, I read it years ago, so listening to it in Audio can be a treat … like a movie with all the “action” in my own head. More often, it will be the first book in a series. Pay a few dollars for the audiobook, get hooked, and then you will buy the rest of them. I’ve gotten into a lot of really good series this way and I like it because I run out of books rather more often than I would like. Also, as the years have gone on, I’ve gotten pickier about what I want to read. The world has gotten so outrageous and kind of terrible, I’m looking not for great literature, but for entertainment. If it is going to inform me, it is also going to amuse me or I simply won’t read it.

Scythe is Neal Shusterman’s first entry into a series called, as it turns out, “Arc of a Scythe” and it’s about (you guessed it) the guys who go out and kill people for a living. Humankind, in this world, has perfected medicine. No one dies of disease or disaster. Whatever happens to you — including having your spine snapped or falling off a 120 story building — they can fix you. People age, but very slowly.

No one has to work particularly hard because a giant computer — the Monsterhead (it was a cloud, but it grew to godlike proportions) has taken over the care, feeding, and entire management of the human race. Also mankind was feeling a bit hinky about it in the beginning, the giant computer has been a pretty good god … rather a lot better than the old-fashioned ones from “The Old Days.”

But death … that was a problem. What with medicine having been perfected and no one dying of disease or age or accident, something needed to be done to keep the population in check.

And so a group of men and women were created to take care of this problem. Monsterhead — as a machine — did not feel equipped to handle killing people. He — or really “it” — felt this was a human job for humans to manage. The Scythes were born. A set of rules was created and people were scythed as needed. There wasn’t any particular reason for the reaping. Crime was gone because no one had any reason to be a criminal. Sometimes people who behaved dangerously or just badly were reaped because they were the kind of people who would have done themselves in anyway. More often, it was just … your turn. No reason, but your file came up and a Scythe came to your house and done you in. Quickly, with no fuss or mess.

Even in the most perfect of scheme, the can be “issues” and the Scythes are not perfect. They are Scythes now, but they were people first and a few of them are perhaps “over-eager” and enjoy killing too much. Some of them, in a need to make themselves eve more godlike than they already are — which is pretty godlike — grant too many favors. Reprieves, given for a year or sometimes forever for families of the Scythes themselves.

Being a Scythe is a powerful position not only because it brings death, but also because Scythes have essentially unlimited wealth to go with their power — and therein lies the rub.

This has turned out to be an interesting story and a pretty good mystery. I wasn’t expecting much. I love science fiction and fantasy, but so much of the newer material is the same old stuff. Tired old plots and tired old characters. This is something new and a little different. The plot is a standard mystery of who killed who and I’ve seen it before on a lot of cop shows over the years. But the setting is quite different and the world in which it is happening is nicely unique. I’m also glad it’s a series. Many of my favorite series seem to have run out and I’ve been looking for something new.

This is new. It’s nicely ghoulish, a tiny bit sexy (not much — don’t go looking for the hot parts because there aren’t any), and the world creation is not absolutely original, but pretty close. Actually, it reminds me somewhat of the world in “City” … but it takes place entirely on earth.

If you are intrigued by the idea of a horde of reaping Scythes as the wild card that will send you to whatever may lie on the other side, this is a good one. Well written, nicely narrated too. Available as a hardcover book from Amazon and probably other booksellers as well. A nice, well-written fantasy. No magic … just really super advanced computers which might just as well be magic.

Because:


British science fiction writer Arthur C. Clarke formulated three adages known as Clarke’s Three Laws:

  1. When a distinguished but elderly scientist states something is possible, he is almost certainly right. When he states something is impossible, he is very probably wrong.
  2. The only way of discovering the limits of the possible is to venture a little way past them into the impossible.
  3. Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic.

 

IN HONOR OF HALLOWEEN – GARRY ARMSTRONG

A Halloween Special

Photography by Garry Armstrong

Poetry by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow


Photo: Garry Armstrong
Photo: Garry Armstrong

Henry Wadsworth Longfellow (1807-1882)
A PSALM OF LIFE


WHAT THE HEART OF THE YOUNG MAN
SAID TO THE PSALMIST

TELL me not, in mournful numbers,
Life is but an empty dream ! —
For the soul is dead that slumbers,
And things are not what they seem.

Life is real ! Life is earnest!
And the grave is not its goal ;
Dust thou art, to dust returnest,
Was not spoken of the soul.

Not enjoyment, and not sorrow,
Is our destined end or way ;
But to act, that each to-morrow
Find us farther than to-day.

Art is long, and Time is fleeting,
And our hearts, though stout and brave,
Still, like muffled drums, are beating
Funeral marches to the grave.

In the world’s broad field of battle,
In the bivouac of Life,
Be not like dumb, driven cattle !
Be a hero in the strife !

Trust no Future, howe’er pleasant !
Let the dead Past bury its dead !
Act,— act in the living Present !
Heart within, and God o’erhead !

Lives of great men all remind us
We can make our lives sublime,
And, departing, leave behind us
Footprints on the sands of time ;

Footprints, that perhaps another,
Sailing o’er life’s solemn main,
A forlorn and shipwrecked brother,
Seeing, shall take heart again.

Let us, then, be up and doing,
With a heart for any fate ;
Still achieving, still pursuing,
Learn to labor and to wait.