"YOUR LIFE IS YOUR OWN LIFE..."
VARIATIONS ON A THEME BY JAMES WRIGHT
Your Life is your own Life & not just a compendium of debts;
No, never just a mosaic of owings, whether
real or imagined
--A life like the latter would be no life, surely, but only an excuse for not living,
& for existing as if continuously inside someone else's skin;
Nor can anyone develop "A Life Of One's Own"
in the opposite way, I think,
& by looking at the world with eyes merely of creditor, or predator,
--I.e., like someone who thinks that the balance of the world is out there
just simply to owe him or her a living
For our Lives are surely our own Lives, are
--& Not just a compendium of debts.
Some day I'd like to understand why even the
very idea of the existence of individuals
so bold or foolhardy as to attempt to think & live independently
& Who have therefore only themselves to blame if something happens to go wrong,
Should alarm so many people & even scare some almost half to death!
--Apparently producing in the average mind,
quasi- apocalyptic visions
of the whole world falling apart, with the heavens falling down
& seas rising up; & with volcanoes erupting underfoot with every step;
With entire governments collapsing & institutions crumbling; &--still worse yet!--with
even such leading members of The Community At Large
As bankers & brokers & accountants
Throwing clawing, despairing hands up to the heavens, as if revenues might yet be found there
As con-men & parasites of all kinds, having
bitten their fingernails to the bone
& torn out all their hair, climb out onto lofty window-ledges & prepare to end it all,
By throwing themselves as hard as possible onto the smoking ground
--While churchbells around the world toll out ominously, to warn the faithful of impending doom.
However, show most regimented people some
really sleazy, two-bit miserable weasel
Whose External Life consists solely of various semi-balletic attempts to
keep in step, toe the mark, or somehow fall back in line,
& Whose so-called Personal Life is a crazy-quilt woven of casual, highly unreliable,
or forced & fraying connections
& Whose Inner Life is either virtually non-existent--or else some miserably shabby collection
of endless, self-perpetuated ruses as to his or her own unique worth
& It's then that people start nodding
& smiling to themselves as if understandingly
--& suddenly start to show some real respect!
It's refreshing, I find, to speak every now
& then with people ready to take responsibility
for their own actions,
I.e., People who are really genuinely present, even as they're standing there right in front of you!
& Whose existences aren't merely contingent upon ruses or excuses as they go through life,
struggling daily under the shadow of endlessly-evoked mysterious, frightful injunctions
or secret, invisible, awful obligations,
I.e., People who arent either
suffering from the dread disease of too much Noblesse Oblige
or else, just plain Helpless, Hungry, or Hard Up.
--Not that I think that I myself have achieved
so exquisitely liberated a state quite yet,
despite my frequent, indeed constant efforts! Still, sometime at least,
Id just love to encounter a whole playful day's-worth of people
fit for freedom at least by temperament
& Who since theyve gained relatively firm control over their own lives
Can refuse flat out to make excuses for the Lives they're living
--If only just to provide a welcome sense
of reliefm at least briefly, from the way things too often
& if only just as a form of experiment!
"'Your Life Is Your Own Life...' (Variations On A Theme By James Wright)" is a poem about self-directed people, & distinguishes them from people who are, as Sociologists say, "Other Directed." And whose thinking, even, is so controlled by circumstance that there's some question as to whether they are doing much thinking or are capable of thinking independently, at all. Subtext: Poem also praises freedom which it defines in passing as gaining control over ones own life to the extent possible. An earlier version of poem first appeared in 2000 in Lips magazine, © 2000 Michael Benedikt. Webversion © 2004 by Michael Benedikt.
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