Friday, August 01, 2014

And Death Shall Have No Dominion, part II

Part 1.

I present the first stanza, line by line.

And death shall have no dominion.

Death shall not conquer us. It will not vanquish the power of life. There is no denying death, but it will not, cannot, take away the myriad forms and processes of everlasting life: the rejuvenation, the re-birth, the budding and blossoming of flowers in the spring, the melting of ice and the formation of clouds and the rain and the rebirth of a parched earth. Death shall come, but it shall have no dominion.

Dead men naked they shall be one

In death there is no distinction. In life we are distinguished. In death we are of the soil: naked, unadorned, simple. And as all earth is one, so are dead men. They don’t stand tall any more, ready to fly away from earth, but are the very earth itself. The color of skin is like the color of one’s dress: ephemeral and superficial. In life we might be fair or tan. In death, we are all the color of the soil.

With the man in the wind and the west moon;

The disintegration of the body is also its scattering. Once scattered, what is to distinguish a man who once lived in a mansion from one who lived under the moon? One who felt the cool air through the whirl of a cooling fan from one who felt the very wind caress his cheeks?

When their bones are picked clean and the clean bones gone,

As the body disintegrates, it gets reduced more and more to its essence: from movement to stillness, from form to mere structure, from accumulation and adornments to being bare and Spartan.  From breath to blood to flesh to bone to dust.

They shall have stars at elbow and foot;

Restored to glory, restored to being part of the wind and the sky, restored to space, released from the confines of flesh, they are now earth, the moon, the sun, and the constellations.  They are once more part of the glory of nature, while earlier their vanity and pride made them meek and puny.

Though they go mad they shall be sane,

The knowledge gained through a lifetime shall be no more, and there will be a seeming chaos and noise where there was once a lullaby and a symphony. But there is music in the wind, there is a rhythm in the river, and the beat of waves and the thunderclouds reverberates even through the deaf. Chaos is not disorder: a tree in the forest is exactly where it should be, a flower blooming is not answerable to any higher order but its own existence, a dead fallen fruit is life-giving or it may just rot away. And that implicit way of being, where there is no becoming, is the peak of understanding.

Though they sink through the sea they shall rise again;

Death puts us down, when we can no longer walk or fly or reach out to hold a hand, but as we scatter, darkness becomes light, the dead nourish the living, one life gives away to another, and the circle of life continues to shrink and expand. We accumulate the weight of our memories, and then we are unburdened once more. The power of life is irrepressible. A seed breaks through the soil, the little bird hatches through the egg, the blade of grass is crushed only to become straight again and to feel the sunlight shimmering on it.  And they all contain the scattered remains of what was once dead.  They cannot but rise to life, for life is in essence a push against randomness, against fate.

Though lovers be lost love shall not;
The unique forms can disintegrate and transform, but the formation cannot. If love is what gives birth to new forms, to new life...  If love is what formation is ... Then love is eternal. The coming together and the scattering and then coming together again can no more stop than the earth can stop circling the sun.


And death shall have no dominion.

And no, death shall not conquer us.

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