ROCKET SCIENCE: Do Not Go Gentle Into that Good-for-Nothing Night

I’m smack dab in the middle of a few things. These are not passive projects, like a binge on some television series or watching the Major League Baseball post-season games setting up the World Series (which I will pass as well), My “things” are active, life-consuming energy-based projects that have creative and financial repercussions, hopefully in great quantities.

My only dismay about any of them is their completion because I will have to fill the void their completions leave with more things to start, continue, find myself smack dab in the middle of doing and then feeling the concern that their completions promise.

One of the projects does have to do with the passive act of viewing. However, the subject matter provokes so many emotions and ignites so many spin-off activities that it is impossible for me to call it “passive.” It is, in fact, imperative that I distrust and dismiss every possible act even resembling some thing passive because even though I still think I will live to be a hundred or more I doubt very much if I will be able to embrace many “active” things as my mind and body dulls. Even though it is natural, I deplore the dulling of my being in any way, shape or form, especially if the way, shape and form are connected to my five senses.

I cannot and will not go gentle into any good night because the night Dylan Thomas used in his poem is the ultimate good night, a dulling of such magnitude that it perpetuates passivity into infinity and let’s face it, as long as infinity may be, do we really have any trust that it ends well for any of us?

Though I am convinced there is nothing to be frightened about nothing, which awaits us all, there are a few of us walking the Earth after sixty-some-odd years (and some extremely odd ones) to whom the bell need not toll, thank you. Not to go gentle is what I am doing and every action I address is accompanied with sufficient rage against the dying of the light. So much so that I revile myself if I step back and take a breath unless that breath conspires to keep breaths inhaling and exhaling in order to defeat the dulling.

John Donne’s poem, by contrast, is opprobrious. Of course a man is an island. All humans are islands, flesh and blood surrounded by bodies of water disguised as humans, most of them that think they know better than you do about anything, most of them that claim they are “involved in mankind,” as Donne wrote, swearing “each man’s death diminishes me.” They want the bell tolling for them? It’s all right with me. They can have the toll and its echoes and go gentle into the night smiling. Not me.

A friend of mine who died at the tender age of fifty knew he was on death’s door. He said to me that I need not worry (I was forty-eight at the time) because when I die I “will be a very old man sitting in a lawn chair waiting for the Grim Reaper’s visit and at my side will be a thick, heavy bucket and just before the light inevitably fades to black you will kick the bucket hard and far.”

That ain’t gentle.

When we are in our thirties we should feel that we are on the stage of life and acting upon our whims with the strength of youth still fueling our aggression. We should not, however, look upon the time as if we are using up all of our temerity; we need to be sure that through suffering and heartbreak we will not go gentle into our forties or fifties and so on, no less into some good-for-nothing night.

The body grows older but the mind does not have to be loyal; one can conjure audacity to build up the rage against the light for as long as it can dowse the dulling.

I hear a song; the beat comes from an anvil.

Bang, clang, something’s being done. Do it hard, do it now and do more when this pounding ends.

And let’s get something straight while I’m here: None of the things keeping me busy, at the beginning or smack dab in the middle of them or finishing them, are more important than keeping me engaged in life at the moment and the next one and the next one.

Actions, of course, are the rage, rage against the dying light.

And now, on to something else.

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