I almost wish we were butterflies and liv’d but three summer days - three such days with you I could fill with more delight than fifty common years could ever contain- John Keats
The Sun Rising
BUSY old fool, unruly Sun,
Why dost thou thus,
Through windows, and through curtains, call on us ?
Must to thy motions lovers’ seasons run ?
Saucy pedantic wretch, go chide
Late school-boys and sour prentices,
Go tell court-huntsmen that the king will ride,
Call country ants to harvest offices ;
Love, all alike, no season knows nor clime,
Nor hours, days, months, which are the rags of time.
Thy beams so reverend, and strong
Why shouldst thou think ?
I could eclipse and cloud them with a wink,
But that I would not lose her sight so long.
If her eyes have not blinded thine,
Look, and to-morrow late tell me,
Whether both th’ Indias of spice and mine
Be where thou left’st them, or lie here with me.
Ask for those kings whom thou saw’st yesterday,
And thou shalt hear, “All here in one bed lay.”
She’s all states, and all princes I ;
Nothing else is ;
Princes do but play us ; compared to this,
All honour’s mimic, all wealth alchemy.
Thou, Sun, art half as happy as we,
In that the world’s contracted thus ;
Thine age asks ease, and since thy duties be
To warm the world, that’s done in warming us.
Shine here to us, and thou art everywhere ;
This bed thy center is, these walls thy sphere.
I was out for dinner with some friends yesterday. And in own of those moments we all experience where we are overwhelmed by this sudden need for solitude, I left the restaurant for some air. Of course, while I was outside, I wasn’t really alone. Instead, I was in the company of the usual band of smokers, social and otherwise, who had probably only gone fifteen minutes into their own meals before being crippled by the dry-throat call of the cigarette. They were standing in a circle, the way basketball players do before initiating new game play, inhaling the toxicity of the air around them and waving the white sticks between their fingers, ashes flying everywhere. My disdain for cigarettes almost drove me back inside but then I overheard something that one of them said ‘I’ve just been in love with him for so long, that I don’t think I know how to stop’. I thought about how many times I’d heard my own friends say something along those lines but what really struck me was what she said next, ‘He’s what I need to be happy’. I knew I shouldn’t but I stood on a few more minutes, listening to this woman, spilling her heart out to her friends, who just stood, looking on and nodding. She told them how she’d been in love with this man who worked with her for many years and how he didn’t even know. She had turned down a job offer because she didn’t want to be apart from him. She thought she’d ruin whatever chances she had with him. She had even convinced herself that his attention towards her and subtle office flirtation were indication that her feelings were reciprocated. The other day she found out that he’s started seeing someone. The word he had used to describe this girl: Perfect.
I didn’t know this woman but her position compelled sympathy, even enough for me to let go of my initial prejudice, as a result of her being a smoker. But in the next moment, sympathy turned to disgust. I am as strong an advocate of the pursuit of love as any other hopeless romantic that ever was but I am also anti-frivolity. I understand how easy it is for us to get carried away with our ideas of love and how we can start to believe that we need to risk everything for the acquisition of something that we believe will make us happy but one thing that all of humanity seems to forget is that we are not omniscient. We do not actually know will make us happy. We base our lives on the things that we hope will. And hopefully the course of our lives run so that we have the laughter as well as the pain because both are needed. But we can not continue to believe in happy-ever-after, can we? Does there not come a point where we grow out of fairytales? There is no one thing, no one experience or person that will ensure our happiness for the rest of our lives and for us to believe that there is and forsake all other aspects of our lives for that belief is not hope, it is foolishness.
Last year, I believed I knew exactly what I wanted to do with my life and this year I want something completely different. I thought I knew for certain what my life was about, where it was going and now I’m headed in a different direction. We are only human and we cannot forecast our own lives, not to mention the live of others. The uncertainty is part of the experience but we set ourselves up for failure when we begin to shut the doors on opportunities in pursuit of one desire. Maybe the woman should have taken the better job offer. Maybe the job would have brought her closer to happiness than the man she believes she loves. Maybe she’ll never know because she’ll keep waiting for him.
We conjure up these fallacious beliefs that one thing will bring us happiness. We appreciate it to a position above all other things and pursue it like some sort of Holy Grail; the trophy, the physical symbolism of our own self-actualisation. How foolish is it to believe that life can reach any kind of completion by the mere acquisition of one thing, whether it is something as trivial as a house or a job or something more compelling and abstract as love?