Monday, May 01, 2017

Labour Day

As T S Eliot puts it,
The lot of man is ceaseless labour,
Or ceaseless idleness, which is still harder,
Or irregular labour, which is not pleasant.
I have trodden the winepress alone, and I know
That it is hard to be really useful, resigning
The things that men count for happiness, seeking
The good deeds that lead to obscurity, accepting
With equal face those that bring ignominy,
The applause of all or the love of none.
All men are ready to invest their money
But most expect dividends.
I say to you: Make perfect your will.
I say: take no thought of the harvest,
But only of proper sowing.
Since the last time I posted here, two years have passed. In that period, I've entered an enterprise, missed two St David's Days, taught countless classes (by which I mean I haven't counted them) in literature, history, and hard sciences. I have read many books, wearied of many writers, and settled into a life of comfortable obscurity—only to be unsettled by various events.

I have walked as much as ever, but covered more ground. Whereas in the past I walked the same blocks, the same corridors, again and again in each interminable day for twelve years, I have been walking the streets and the drains, the hills and the hawker-stalls, and the small corners of the wide earth for almost a decade since.

Time wounds all heels, as an old saying goes. Your sole is hardened by much beating against the ground, like wheat threshed to remove chaff, or iron pounded in a flame.

And here it is Labour Day, and the idea of retirement irks me. After all, it was an idea invented by the Iron Chancellor, Bismarck of relatively ancient fame: he decided it would be good to support the infirm and insane in their old age. He excluded those still fit for work, which for the largest span of human history has been the norm. My forefathers trod their winepresses till they could tread no more, and I dearly wish to do the same. When a person will no longer work, there is no need for that person to eat.

But that state is, God willing, decades hence. And even if not, I'm happy to go when properly gone. For now, I'll just think my thoughts and measure out my life in coffee spoons.

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