I will show you fear in a handful of dust
“I will show you fear in a handful of dust !”
So wrote T.S. Elliot in the ‘Wasteland’ and ever since people have striven to find meaning and define what was in his mind when he wrote those words.
Many claim it defines the irrational fear we humans have of our mortality and the unknown that lies beyond our death. Trouble is if that simple explanation were true then why would someone like me even give these words a second thought ? After all I have no fear of death, as someone with pre religious Pagan beliefs I neither need nor follow any God, I accept life as merely a natural journey with both a beginning and an end. There is nothing before life and there is nothing after life.
Yet I find that those few words haunt me still.
Most people know me as someone who has a great love of life, an unquenchable thirst for knowledge and answers they know that I have spent my entire life with the word ‘Why’ ever on my lips. I marvel at the power of nature and the wonders all around me and I hate the ignorance I see and hear coming from people whom I believe should know better yet chose to exist in a blinkered world that shields them from truth and reality.
It annoys me that in this existence most of us are not around long enough to make a difference while many of those you could chose not to and those who try are subjected to ridicule as they endeavour to encourage change.
So; is that what his words mean....? Not that we fear death but we fear that we will leave this world without a trace of ever having been here at all and that an even greater number will never be aware of our absence.
There are a few scattered throughout history who achieve a sort of immortality for their great works and deeds their names etched into our memory. Many others alive today will also achieve this high level, although thanks to the power of the Media and our swallow desire to worship celebrity I fear in most cases it will be for all the wrong reasons. I find it abhorrent that someone like Einstein will have to share high Status with the likes of Michael Jackson or Wayne Rooney....
I suppose my own vain attempts to make some sort of dent in the world or to leave a mark is through my writing, to join the ranks of Agatha Christie, Arthur Conan Doyle or Colin Dexter as a crime writer. I might even have settled for immortality as the one who brought the Dust Bunny characters of Floater, Dingle, McFluff and Dame Margot Flufftain to life but being a realist in an unrealistic world even I can see the futility in my dreams.
Being a realist one is always acutely aware that failure is always an option, in any challenge we hope for the best while planning for the worst and we are happy to settle for the grey compromise area in the middle, this is how we survive and live to rise again and again. Some would say that this is not a bad philosophy for life, accepting the hard knocks yet always ready to enter the fray one more time.
For life ...Yes!
But what about afterwards ? Can I sense that fear.... in that handful of dust... that ultimately I and all of us will become ?
In my life so far I have many achievements to my credit, not earth shattering or world saving but personal goals set and met. I hope for those with whom my path has crossed I may have made a contribution to who they are and help them to set out and achieve their own goals. I hope in some tiny way I have made a difference for having been here, yet in the grand scheme of things I sincerely doubt it....
Yet as a lifelong optimist I will continue to try to so I wear my new Sweat Shirt with Pride knowing this at least; that all those who read the words as I pass them by will know the question although they may never find the answer !