Terry from Derry: Life is Sweet
By Terry Boyle
If you are like me, you tend to get submerged in all sorts of things, and most of those things are enough to take you further under. For a while, I have been so engrossed in the news my vision was simply bleak.
There was any number of what ifs and could it be’s?, anything to make the news appealing. For some reason, news outlets love to drum up apocalyptic vibes to have us on the edge of our seats for nothing. It’s not news if it doesn’t leave you feeling as though something big is going to happen.
It has taken me a long time, too long a time, to realize that the news isn’t news so much as panic-mongering. Over the past years, I’ve been up and down on the media roller coaster so much that I’m beginning to wonder if it was any different now to when I was younger.
When I was younger, I didn’t care much for the news. I was too busy enjoying life and exploring new things. Life was sweeter then. I wasn’t so much into the business of politics as much as I was in the midst of a swirl of life events that were more exciting than historical happenings that would define my future.
It’s strange how, as I’ve got older, that way of thinking has reversed, and now I’m preoccupied with historical occurrences. Now my life events have taken a back seat. The world has become a dangerous and unpredictable place as I’ve aged.
It was probably as hazardous when I was younger but wasn’t conscious of it. Something had changed; my perspective grew increasingly gloomier and settled in amid an unsettling world. It was as if I became aware that we were living on a ball that rotates in a solar system that I hadn’t noticed before.
Such a shift in focus is bound to happen as you grow older. The things that you rushed past begin to catch your attention as you slow down.
I was never aware of nature in a particular way when I was younger. I saw nature as a wonderful beautiful global entity that was to be enjoyed in a universal sense. The details weren’t important, it was the overall feel of the natural world that affected me. I concentrated on the sensual effect of nature and wasn’t much interested in the particulars.
Decades pass and I find I’m seeing that those particulars are much more interesting and exciting than I ever thought. As a person whose interest is in literature, I see this shift of focus in the writings of well-known authors.
Yeats, in his youth, venerated the legends and myths of Ireland. The young poet enjoyed the sensuality and the beauty of the metaphysical. The older poet is forced to face the realities of his times. His spirit still wants to celebrate the mystical but the real world keeps intruding. He cannot escape the horrors of his time.
The Ireland he tried to capture in romantic verse crumbles and disintegrates, the ‘centre cannot hold.’ His disappointment and disillusionment lead him to write some of his more profound poems. The ‘savage indignation’ he assigned to Jonathan Swift was also a part of his own fragile psyche.
There’s a definite baptism of fire when it comes to seeing the world as an ugly place to live in. It’s easy to see how we can be depressed by the state of this planet. I’ve said enough in previous articles about how I feel about the politics of our nation and the role we’ve played in destroying the best things in life for future generations. I don’t need to enumerate the many issues that are pushing us towards the edge of oblivion.
No one wants to listen to the scientist, the experts, people want to hear politicians who know little or nothing about what they say. It makes me despair at how unquestioning our community is about those who say things they cannot back up with real hard evidence.
Day after day, I read how easy it is to dupe people into thinking of some conspiracy because it’s on Facebook, Instagram or social media. Professionals be damned, let’s read a blog by a moron who knows nothing but tells a good story.
It is at times such as this that I know it’s important to take a step back and remind myself that nothing is any different to how it was when Yeats was alive. People, even Yeats, were duped by the fascists who promised to return us to a place where there was a stable sense of government and a hierarchy that would keep us all in our rightful station. The promise, much like ‘make America great again,’ was an illusion, a false hope that desperate people were prepared to buy into to escape the sense of panic.
When the curtain is drawn back and the wizard is revealed to be a short man with a funny moustache, it is easy to point the finger and wonder how could anyone be taken in by such a charade? But we are no different, and we’ll never be any different.
So, given this state of affairs, how can I think that life is sweet? The title of this article is taken from a Natalie Merchant song, in which she writes, ‘they told you life is long, Be thankful when it’s done, Don’t ask for more, You should be grateful. But I tell you life is short. Be thankful because you know, It will be over, cause life is sweet, and life is also very short. Your life is sweet.’
The song acknowledges the futility of life, but also how we can decide how to respond to this sense of existential despair. Viktor Frankel tells us the same thing in his book, ‘Man’s Search for Meaning.’
When faced with his captors in a concentration camp, Frankel suggests that all we have of our own is choice. We can decide to choose how to respond to where our life is. We can choose to despair, or we can choose to value things in life that are important to us.
Life is short, and there are things we should be grateful for. I’m trying to change my way of thinking, and concentrate on those people who make my life sweeter. I am grateful.