Dylan Thomas: Rage Or Resignation?

Occasionally, an interesting comment on one of my blog piques my interest; here is an excerpt from a recent one:

“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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7 thoughts on “Dylan Thomas: Rage Or Resignation?

  1. I love this blog. Keep the good stuff coming. Not enough talk about the consequences of atheism and the absurdity/mysteriousness of life.

  2. Really appreciate your comments. Thank you. And just remember that the heart counts as much as the head. Without heart, life is not worth living. And I’ll try to respond to your comments in tomorrow’s blog.

  3. I will always choose rage. Accepting my fate is to deny my ability to shape my own destiny. Granted time may, in the end, claim us all, but there is nothing stopping us from having a lasting impact on this world, beyond our corporeal form. Yes, perhaps our existence, as we experience it, is finite, but our being has the potential to be eternal, through our thoughts, ideas and how we effect those around us. Even in my short time learning from you, Doc, you have made an impact on me that will likely live on well beyond your years, and hopefully well beyond even my years. So this is why we fight, this is why we rage. To quote one of my favorite fictional characters, Rorschach from Alan Moore’s graphic novel Watchmen “Never compromise, even in the face of total armageddon.”

    I’ve had some drinks tonight, so my brevity might be a little out of control, haha.

  4. Hilariously I meant “bravado” not “brevity”, which almost punctuates the point further

  5. This sentiment echoes Tennyson’s Ulysses: “to strive, to seek, to find, and not to yield.”

  6. Dying is the last great adventure of every life, if there is no possibility to change the out come, you are going anyway so savor the end of your life, it will only happen once in this life.

  7. True. The outcome is inevitable. Death comes only once. However, we lack awareness of this inevitability and suffer its consequences in silence.

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