Death Is A Sorrowful Lover
DEAD LEAVES IN SPRINGTIME
They are I, and they are not-I.
I never know where they're going to come from.
I never know where they're going to go.
Chasing each other
round and round,
high up off the ground,
They sure do seem to know a thing or two
about how to play,
about how to dance.
Why would anyone want eternal rest,
Why wouldn't anyone want to go on living and living
There is a strange and wondrous power running throughout the whole of
the natural world, a primal, driving force which, operating like an
internalized engine, imbues all facets of nature with motion and
purpose. "Motion," I say; and "purpose," I
say; shying away, at least momentarily, from asserting an equivalency
between this purposeful motion and "life" – for how can
I possibly claim that rocks and rivers, the rain and the wind and the
dead leaves and so on are "alive"? And yet they have a
power. Nor is this power merely symbolic. The symbolic is
that which exists only to give those abstractions born of the human
intellect embodiment in some external, tangible form. But the power
embodied by those dead leaves is, I believe, a power whose source is
located within the leaves themselves. This power might perhaps best
be designated simply as energy, though I would qualify my
definition of energy here to mean "the communicative ability
that resides in all things, both animate and inanimate," this
communicative ability being the means by which the transformative power
of energy is given expression. Not having yet learned (or
having forgotten) how to understand the communicative power of
inanimate objects, we believe them capable of only such transformative
action as the laws of physics allow. Who would contend that those
dead leaves, twirled and swirled by the spring breezes, are in fact not
really dead, but living things still? Yet they have a story to
tell. They speak. They have a language, and that language
is not, I believe, beyond the interpretational ability of humankind.
The only reason I speak of their communicative power in terms of
"belief" at all is because humankind as a species has become
so single-minded in its adherence to scientific rationalism that it can
no longer interpret reality from any other perspective. We have
forgotten, in other words, that scientific rationalism is but an
attitude, a methodology, a mode of perception, and thus have come to
define that which we call "irrational" as being not only that
which lies outside the parameters of one particular conceptual framework,
but as that which is no longer worthy of consideration because
it lies outside the parameters of one particular conceptual framework.
Any mode of perception other than that which is rooted in scientific
rationalism is relegated to the status of mere "belief" –
subjective, personal, and relative. Scientific rationalism is
beneficial in that it gives us an objective standard by which to measure
reality, but it forgets that reality is also subjective – is
experiential. To interpret reality correctly, one must speak
in terms which encompass both its objective and subjective expressions,
and realize that true understanding can only be found at the point at
which they intersect. The energies manifested at this point of
intersection must, by definition, be realized metaphorically:
for tangible reality is, after all, but a metaphor for energy.
Poetry (and art in general) is perhaps the best mode of communication
we have for this kind of understanding, for a work of art is likewise
metaphoric in content, even while its mode of transmission is
symbolic. Yet even art becomes hesitant, speaks falteringly,
approximately, when faced with the full range of communication
available to us. The language of the leaves is, finally, beyond
it. While such a language can be spoken about, it cannot
itself be spoken: it can only be lived.
Last autumn's leaves – brown, frayed, dusty, brittle –
swirl, twirl, scuttle, tumble. They are simply being blown about
by the spring breezes, yes; but they are also alive. This is absurd
only to those whose thinking is ruled by scientific rationalism; it
is not absurd in and of itself. In the interaction that exists
between wind and leaves each partially transforms the other – the
wind by imparting motion to the leaves, the leaves by shaping and
subtly altering the course of the wind. In this transformative
power there exists a manner of communication; and where communication
exists, so must consciousness. And where there is consciousness,
so must there be life, however foreign its formulation appears to the
human mind. The dead leaves speak. They are alive.
And the message they bring is, insofar as it can be understood and
interpreted by humankind, friendly enough I think. Any message
that can be understood by humankind must be deemed to be fundamentally
friendly (even when that message is dangerous, spoken by an enemy)
because if it is a message that can be understood by human beings
then at least one aspect of its communicative power must be said to
have a human causality, thus bringing it into the realm not only of
the understandable but also of the potentially answerable. And
yet I cannot interpret entirely the message of the leaves.
Nature is feral; nature is wild; and I have not yet recovered enough
of my own wildness to be able to interpret nature entirely.
Until I can do so, it will remain, to some degree, dangerous to me in
a manner that is not only problematic, but potentially deadly.
To overcome this danger I must learn the language of the leaves.
I must come to understand that I, too, am a dead leaf, blown about
by the spring breezes yet also moving by my own power, under my own volition.
Life and death, indeed the entire process of living and dying, cannot be
encompassed by the merely symbolic. The symbolic must be
emptied of all preconceived meaning, its value understood to depend
upon that which we discover through our own active embodiment of the
true nature of reality, and of ourselves. We must become one with
reality – or realize the oneness that already exists, beyond the
realm of our preconditioned conceptions. If we can but accomplish
this, then what lies ahead will be nothing less than a voyage of
discovery into an uncharted land.