Dylan Thomas: Rage or Resignation?

Occasionally, an interesting comment on one of my blog piques my interest; here is an excerpt from one about yesterday’s blog:

“The “lostness concerning our place in an indifferent cosmos” as you put it … seems to be a pervasive thought process even among the laymen when presented with the idea of an overall lack of meaning, but why is that? I tend more to agree with guys like Simon Critchley in that meaningless is awesome! Yeah, the cosmos is indifferent! All that means is that we have been granted access to this amazing, possibly infinite sandbox to play in for as long as we allow ourselves to do so! Maybe that’s just me.”

I wish I could embrace the possible meaninglessness of life the way Critchley does. He eschews all narratives of salvation and is edified by the ordinary things around him which, on closer inspection, are really extraordinary. Perhaps this is what Kazantzakis had in mind when he called hope “the last temptation.” Rather than hope for unattainable salvation, we should find meaning in the sights, sounds, and loves that surround us. This was Zorba the Greek’s solution in Kazantzakis’s novel. You find a similar idea in Stoicism. If we could be resigned and indifferent to our fate, while doing our duty at the same time, we would experience equanimity of mind. This might be the best we can do.

But then again, to quote the commentator, “maybe it’s just me” but this doesn’t seem to be enough. This raises a question. Is there something wrong with me because I cannot find the extraordinary within the ordinary, I cannot accept my fate and my finitude; or is something wrong with the world, that it appears not to give me the infinite being, consciousness, and bliss I so desire? Shakespeare said that the problem wasn’t in the stars but in ourselves, but I think the problem is in both. To be truly content we must change both ourselves and the world.

Yet it is a big project to change the world. For now, we may be forced to accept our fate and find solace in doing so. Perhaps this is the best we can do. Just let it go—resignation, acceptance, peace. The nirvana of nothingness. But as soon as I say such things another voice within me objects. I hear Dylan Thomas.

“Do not go gentle into that good night. Rage, rage against the dying of the light.”

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