- a commentary on Tennyson's poem, "The Ancient Sage".

Comments Page 3

My son, the world is dark with griefs and graves,
So dark that men cry out against the Heavens.
Who knows but that the darkness is in man?
The doors of Night may be the gates of Light;
For wert thou born or blind or deaf, and then
Suddenly heal’d, how would’st thou glory in all
The splendours and the voices of the world!
And we, the poor earth’s dying race, and yet
No phantoms, watching from a phantom shore
Await the last and largest sense to make
The phantom walls of this illusion fade,
And show us that the world is wholly fair.

You're right; this material world in many ways is a hell.  How could a God who purportedly claims to be good have anything to do with a place like this with miseries as far as the eye can see?

His statement "The doors of Night may be the gates of Light" might seem to echo back to his earlier statement (6th paragraph from bottom of comments pg. 1) about "the best that glimmers through the worst".  If Tennyson saw that "the best glimmers through the worst" it seems like this would be a good time to bring that up.  A material world is a world of opposites.  Take away opposites in a material world, and never mind what the "Nameless" might be doing that world would vanish about as effectively as if the Nameless withdrew.  The "doors of Night" couldn't exist without something equivalent to "the gates of Light".  Like trying to definitively decide which is the good and which is the bad side of a pancake.  Maybe he didn't think his materialist son would be interested.  And apparently the materialist son wasn't interested in imagining being "suddenly healed" and seeing the world as glorious and splendid.

Here again Tennyson dips back into the consensus of his theology and society, which undoubtedly he also substantially accepted even though he had occasional "gleams" of other things.  He seems to be in a place where the answer is both "the answer is in man" and "the answer is in the transfiguration of the material world".  Humans are "no phantoms" even though they come and go.  The material world is a "phantom shore" that will eventually be gloriously transformed.  This is much more heavily invested in Christianity than in, say, Buddhism or Taoism.

    “But vain the tears for darken’d years
        As laughter over wine,
    And vain the laughter as the tears,
        O brother, mine or thine,
    For all that laugh, and all that weep
        And all that breathe are one
    Slight ripple on the boundless deep
        That moves, and all is gone.”

You can sit around imagining glorious stuff all you want, but this world I'm living in is an unholy hell and adds up to absolutely nothing.

But that one ripple on the boundless deep
Feels that the deep is boundless, and itself
For ever changing form, but evermore
One with the boundless motion of the deep.

Okay.  But isn't it interesting that you're sitting there being conscious of that, being oh so miserable, and you've spent years being conscious of that and becoming more miserable each year and will probably keep doing that for a while.  I'm not blaming you; maybe it's a chemical imbalance or a brain tumor or something.  All that stuff definitely happens. Yet you exist.  Seems like, according to what you're saying, there should just be nothing.  Maybe you have to exist in this world of opposites so that cheerful optimists can exist.

    “Yet wine and laughter friends! and set
        The lamps alight, and call
    For golden music, and forget
        The darkness of the pall.”

Snark away, a.h.  I may be miserable but I still know how to have fun.  Thoughts of death and misery can be blotted out, especially with a small chemical assist.

    If utter darkness closed the day, my son——
But earth’s dark forehead flings athwart the heavens
Her shadow crown’d with stars—and yonder—out
To northward—some that never set, but pass
From sight and night to lose themselves in day.
I hate the black negation of the bier,
And wish the dead, as happier than ourselves
And higher, having climb’d one step beyond
Our village miseries, might be borne in white
To burial or to burning, hymn’d from hence
With songs in praise of death, and crown’d with flowers!

What you're doing would be appropriate if what you're thinking was true, but it's not.  Death is not what everybody thinks it is, that it is an unqualified absolute evil.  That in turn is based on believing that this world is an absolute unqualified material reality.  It's not.  It may be a shadow world, but with death as with misery, the darkness is in man.  Our dead fellow humans disappear from our view because they have left the darkness of our dark "shadow" world and have entered a world of light. Our fellow souls that we know here on "shadow world" Earth, like the stars in the night sky, are only visible to us while we are both in the shadow but when they pass through the "doors of night" into the world of light, they are lost to us. Funerals should be joyful celebratory affairs, like weddings or graduations.  Not an outpouring of sorrow.

    “O worms and maggots of to-day
        Without their hope of wings!”

You're so full of s**t I don't know where to begin.

But louder than thy rhyme the silent Word
Of that world-prophet in the heart of man.

You know you're wrong.

    “Tho’ some have gleams or so they say
        Of more than mortal things.”

Dream on.

To-day? but what of yesterday? for oft
On me, when boy, there came what then I call’d,
Who knew no books and no philosophies,
In my boy-phrase ‘The Passion of the Past.’
The first gray streak of earliest summer-dawn,
The last long stripe of waning crimson gloom,
As if the late and early were but one—
A height, a broken grange, a grove, a flower
Had murmurs ‘Lost and gone and lost and gone!’
A breath, a whisper—some divine farewell—
Desolate sweetness—far and far away—
What had he loved, what had he lost, the boy?
I know not and I speak of what has been.

We obviously differ.  My dreams seem to be a lot more fun for me than yours seem to be for you.  Even when I was a kid I had this feeling that I came from a really wonderful place that I loved and even then didn't seem very far away and sometimes things seemed to be trying to remind me of it, and that sometimes I wasn't even really separated from it.  But now I can't make any sense of it.

And more, my son! for more than once when I
Sat all alone, revolving in myself
The word that is the symbol of myself,
The mortal limit of the Self was loosed,
And past into the Nameless, as a cloud
Melts into Heaven. I touch’d my limbs, the limbs
Were strange not mine—and yet no shade of doubt,
But utter clearness, and thro’ loss of Self
The gain of such large life as match’d with ours
Were Sun to spark—unshadowable in words,
Themselves but shadows of a shadow-world.

And here's something really weird.  Sometimes when I sit and just concentrate on my name for a while I actually go to a different place and leave my material body behind.  It's a case of "when the babblings break the dream" on more than steroids and I can't even describe how wonderful (and real) it is.

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