Blood on the Rose, Part B

John stood next to the mahogany coffin casting his gaze first to his beloved Sophia, then to the painting erected on an easel behind where her head lay. It looked as fragile as his beautiful wife, except there was power in the pictures – the bright red petals, the solid green stem with wicked little thorns … and the blood. It was his blood in the painting, dripping from one of the thorns. Sophia had performed quite exquisitely in this, her last painting.

The rose he had plucked for his soulmate had died. The flowers in their garden had all died. Sophia had died. Everything around John was death … except, perhaps, for the artistic creation that, for some mysterious reason, seemed to speak so resonantly and compellingly to his heart. This was probably an emotional response to the fact that this was her last painting … but no, John knew better.

This is iconic of life, John thought to himself. This is an exquisite representation of Beauty and Life, but for this reason it hurts … it hurts like hell. There is life in this world, but life is like wax in the fire: it melts away and is gone. John turned back to his beloved. Or maybe that’s not quite true. Even wax, when melted, still exists; it simply exists in another form, melted instead of solid.

He paused for a moment as another tear may its way down his already tear-stained cheek. Maybe life is like that. Maybe we do go one, but just in another form or manner… At any rate, one day I’ll rest with you, whatever that means. I wonder, will we know? Will we be conscious? Will we finally be able to live Life? On the other hand, ‘It’s not death that man should fear; rather he should fear never having lived, John remembered reading somewhere. Ah, but how do we really begin truly to live? Am I living now, or is this simply existence?

“As a well-spent day brings happy sleep,” so said Leonardo de Vinci, “so a life well lived brings a happy death.” Yet to John nothing seemed happy about Sophia’s death. And as he remembered her in her last hours, she was not happy. What could have made her happy anyway? John turned back to the painting … back to the blood on the rose.

With all assurance now gone and the future empty ahead,
We sing another dirge while for Hades we make our bed;
Though true it is we fight long to belong to life ever-living,
Yet death stalks us and keeps us from ourselves deceiving

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Blood on the Rose, Part A

Sophia was sitting in the warm and cozy breakfast nook sipping on her Earl Gray from a delicate china cup, with a half-eaten bagel in front of her, while she looked out the tall windows at the astonishingly beautiful flower garden, focusing first on the day lilies, then upon the s-shaped row of monkey grass, cream-colored magnolias, azaleas, and so many other growths of glory stretching toward the brilliantly shining sun. Colors bright and vivid flowed in and out, entwined like one marvelous tapestry.

Sophia placed her cup back down on the fine, hand-crafted saucer, and picked up her sketch pad from the solid oak table to resume her work on an artistic rendition of the roses, marigolds, chrysanthemums, and all the impressively beautiful variety of flowers outside. Her pencil sketch of the garden she and her husband, John, had planted and took such great pains to care for, was more than half completed, and this simple knowledge brought a smile to her angelic, but worn and tired face, as it forcefully occurred to her that her drawing would long outlast her and the flowers as well.

Cancer is such a terrible disease, she thought, cutting me down in the prime of life … but, then, life ends in death, does it not, which is why we strain to create beauty and sacrificially fight to preserve it.[1]

Why even this? After all…

Our life is short and dreary; there is no remedy when our end comes; no one is known to have come back from Hades. We came into being by chance and afterwards shall be as though we had never been. The breath in our nostrils is a puff of smoke, reason a spark from the beating of our hearts; extinguish this and the body turns to ashes, and the spirit melts away like the yielding air. In time, our name will be forgotten; nobody will remember what we have done; our life will pass away … dissolving like the mist.[2]

Meanwhile, out in the garden, John reached out to pluck a rose for his soulmate and immediately felt the pin-prick, like a tiny sword opening layers of skin, followed by a swift flow of blood and throbbing pain, yet he thought it somehow quite appropriate. Love often brings pain, and pain often gives rise to beauty.

His particular suffering this morning brought in its train an image not only attractive by way of its own natural, living glory, but attractive to something “higher,” something enduring and almost overwhelmingly mysterious – perhaps Beauty itself. And so John could not help but think what an elegant and powerfully simple painting it would make: the stem, petals, thorns … and blood on the rose.[3]


[1] Elaine Scarry, On Beauty and Being Just, 5 – 6; cf. also Aristotle, “Poetics,” On Man in the Universe, 423

[2] Book of Wisdom 2.1 – 4a, NJB

[3] Scarry, Op Cit, 3; also, “the material world constrains us, often with great beneficence, to see each person and thing in its time and place, its historical context. But mental life doesn’t constrain us. It is porous, open to the air and light, swings forward while swinging back, scatters its stripes in all directions, and delights to find itself beached beside something invented only that morning or instead standing beside an altar from three millennia ago.” Scarry, 48

Alone: We Spin Our Webs

We make our beds in which to lie,

To cover ourselves before we die,

And we spin our social web

Around this self-same bed, 

To catch some unsuspecting soul

To fill in our heart’s gaping hole,

But we consume all our victims

According to Nature’s dictums,

Or else they break entirely free

And fly to where we cannot see,

But there is perhaps a better way,

More promising to spend our day,

Walking the divinely human maze

To meet another person’s face

In which we trace our very own

From an eternity hitherto unknown


Note: Inspired by Flamingle’s post entitled, “Alone.” Thank you for the inspiration!

Simulacrum: Shadows Passing Shadows

“But if that is the case,” he asked himself, “and I am taking leave of life with the awareness that I squandered all I was given and have no possibility of rectifying matters, what then?” He lay on his back and began to review his whole life in an entirely different light.

When, in the morning, he saw first the footman, then his wife, then his daughter, and then the doctor, their every gesture, their every word, confirmed the horrible truth revealed to him during the night. In them he saw himself, all he had lived by, saw clearly that all this was not the real thing but a dreadful, enormous deception that shut out both life and death.

— From “The Death of Ivan Ilyich” by Leo Tolstoy

Frosted windows open on snow-covered plains so barren and lonely, with the far horizon so thickly gray, with the assurance of more of the same, and all is as silent as death, so silent that even the voice of God cannot be heard. We need life. We need life.

Shadows passing shadows in the shades of shadow trees. Life is a vapor. Mostly ghostly and blithely ignorant, they know something is missing, these spectators of men. And again the church bell tolls for another someone who never lived but finally died. And the gray coffin is lowered into black earth as phantoms cast forth hollow eulogies beneath the dancing shades of the same shadow trees.

The sun rises on an empty beach on an empty Sunday, where the waves make no sound, and the preacher stands perched on the podium preaching redemption to reprobates who cannot hear. But they pad the pews and smile self-righteous smiles, while girls grunge with Jesus round their necks.

Boys and girls dance round the boy, poking and prodding, teasing and laughing — laughing and teasing, prodding and poking as the dance goes on and the tears freely flow. There is pain and suffering driving the victim insane, but does anybody care? He will take his own miserable life, but will any mourn his passing?

jollain_hyacintheAnd the lovely Hyacinthus, radiant reflection of Beauty, draws his last breath as Apollo weeps for love lost and the world buckles at the passing of the divinely desirable boy, even as his blood gives birth to the flowers that will forever bear his name.

Two hearts bleeding. Two souls suffering. Two minds reeling. Two bodies slowly losing feeling. Two lovers void of love, rolling one over the other, making lust in a haversack with hyacinth in their hair. This is the memorial they offer the boy, who now joins as one with Mother Gaia.

A firefly crawls across the concrete, dying in the heat, but no one hears the slowing heartbeat of another life worth less than three-pence, delivered to deconstruction in total destruction as the thrawn sun thrashes its body at dawn.

Blocks of brick are stacked on blocks of brick, as below asphalt streets burn in the glaring sun. Alleyways are filled with scattered litter blown in from shattered lives, and the moon is full at the witching hour.

Smoke rises from the smoldering city as ash rains down thicker than the citizens, who run to their own burial for cover without looking back to see poppies growing in war-scarred fields. Their translucent bodies back into the black of cavernous caves, where they bark against the darkness.

The emptiness of existence is heavy. The vacancy of persistence in existence tangible and terrible, but do they even know … these passing shadows? Do they even know the profundity of the gaping hole in their soul? Can they feel the absence, and if so, do they know what left the better part of their heart so damn cold … these passing shadows?

Women and men, soldiers and scholars, priests and pious hypocrites stand beneath a rugged Roman cross, and what do they see, but Life nailed to wood for the sake of life? But do they even know … these passing shadows? Do they even know they need a savior? Do we know…?

Worry, Worry, Super Scurry

Worry to worry, hurry, scurry,
And all in such a baseless fury;
Sigh, cry with eyes so blurry,
Fly so high to crash and burn,
You may never learn to discern
Where to turn your concern …
Hostile regions of your mind
Bind and blind, and you find
What kind of peace eludes you,
Confuses and then abuses you,
And misuses and accuses you,
As you sulk over easy living lost
While attempting tempting plans
To escape the banality of reality,
Yet you must come face to face
With the case of unsullied truth
That traces lines of finest wine
Of life no longer rife with pain,
But this begins without the sin
Of pride or fear to be so near
What only angels hear
In the realms of glory,
Where your story is boldly told
With a hold on part of a heart
Which has been so very cold
Till now, when there is no reason
To worry, hurry, and super scurry

Noble Manifesto

I will read to plant seeds of knowledge to breed wisdom untold,
And so bold, I will continue burning with a passion for learning
To be made no one’s fool or hapless tool in the long school of life
In which I will sing the living song so strong
As I carry along within a throng of humanity,
And I will be lovely for all to see, giving smiles to miles of faces,
Playing in rhythm with angels, marching through the cataclysm
Of apocalyptic terror, while fighting ‘n writing for full freedom,
And I will drop to my knees in an unadorned attitude of gratitude,
And stop to enjoy the wonder of fields flowing with bright flowers,
And even though I may blunder what I should say along this way,
I will never rue the day I was born, nor will I be at all forlorn,
But I’ll adorn myself in happy apparel as heaven leavens my soul,
And I will love with love from above, and cheer the cheerless,
With none to mourn, but all to give to live this apropos manifesto

Note: This manifesto was inspired by Patty and her own manifesto. Please read and enjoy … and thank you, Patty!

An Unambiguous Reason for Living

Why am I living this life, so filled with strife, which cuts like a knife?
It must be I am playing a part day to day in a way only I can play,
While knowing I’m throwing in my cards with so many other bards
Of reality, fighting banality and lightening flashes of some finality
Against which I am powerless, save to be thankful for the tranquil
And abundant happiness that comes sometimes in the adventure
Of which splendor is an ever-present promise for such endurance

Note: Fellow blogger, Kabeer, asked, “Why are you living life?” at the end of his post entitled, I don’t know why.” The above was my answer. Perhaps you might answer, too! Blog your answer and kindly refer back to My World: The World I See.