Do you resign yourself to the shutting away of life?

Today is July 19 and the Navigate the Chaos question to consider is “do you resign yourself to the shutting away of life?” Those who navigate the chaos choose otherwise and realize the shutting away of life is a sign of giving up on navigating the chaos. Translating dreams into reality requires daily momentum and to give in to the shutting away of life would prohibit even the smallest of steps forward.

Poets often write about such matters and have provided us with many examples over the years. Poets dwell on the specific. They concentrate their pen on the slightest of human endeavors. Looking inward, poets often speak from the heart and create stories to convey important messages. Two such poets that mused on the end of life were Edna St. Vincent Millay and Alfred Lord Tennyson.

American poet and playwright Edna St. Vincent Millay received the Pulitzer Prize for Poetry in 1923, the third woman to win the award for poetry, and was also known for her feminist activism. In 1904, her mother Cora officially divorced Millay's father and, with Millay’s two sisters, moved often living in poverty.

Cora traveled with a trunk full of classic literature, including Shakespeare and Milton, which she read to her children. The family settled in a small house on the property of Cora's aunt in Camden, Maine, where Millay would write the first of the poems that would bring her literary fame. The three sisters were independent and spoke their minds, which did not always sit well with the authority figures in their lives. After graduating Vassar College Millay moved to New York City and continued to write poetry.

One of Millay’s well-known poems is Dirge Without Music where she writes

“I am not resigned to the shutting away of loving hearts in the hard ground.

So it is, and so it will be, for so it has been, time out of mind;

into the darkness they go, the wise and the lovely.

Crowned with lilies and with laurel they go; but I am not resigned.

Down, down, down into the darkness of the grave.

Gently they go, the beautiful, the tender, the kind; quietly they go,

the intelligent, the witty, the brave. I know.

But I do not approve.

And I am not resigned.”

For those unfamiliar with St. Vincent Millay’s poem they would have been introduced to it in the 2017 American comedy-drama film The Hero directed and edited by Brett Haley and written by Haley and Marc Basch. It stars Sam Elliott, Laura Prepon, Krysten Ritter, Nick Offerman and Katharine Ross and follows an aging movie star who deals with his terminal illness.

In his poem Ulysses, written in 1833 and published in 1842 in his well-received second volume of poetry, British poet Alfred Lord Tennyson echoed similar thoughts and wrote

“Though much is taken, much abides; and though;

We are not now that strength which in old days;

Moved earth and heaven, that which we are, we are,

One equal temper of heroic hearts,

Made weak by time and fate, but strong in will;

To strive, to seek, to find, and not to yield.”

For those unfamiliar with Tennyson they would have been introduced to it in the 2012 James Bond film Skyfall. In the movie actor Dame Judi Dench, who portrays ‘M’ the Head of the Secret Intelligence Service MI 6, recites the poet’s words towards the end of the film.

What is most interesting here is the intersection of old poetry and modern film. Examples of navigating the chaos are all around us. The preponderance of support, examples, and stories served as a catalyst for me to catalog as many as possible into a daily question post. Here we have two poems from the past included in the scripts of two modern films. What a beautiful intersection of modernity and antiquity. Audiences for both films were challenged to ask if they were shutting away life or yielding to time and fate.

Brazilian gymnast and World Champion in the floor exercise, Diego Hypolito knows something about navigating the chaos and not yielding to time and fate. He competed in the Beijing 2008 Olympics and fell on his back. Four years later in London 2012 he fell on his face. He was devasted to have fallen for a second time at the Olympic games but continued navigating the chaos. At the 2016 Olympic games in Rio he completed a near perfect routine and finished with a silver medal. In an interview after the medal ceremony he said: “In Beijing I landed on my backside, in London I landed on my face...this time I landed on my feet, with my head held high."

  • How often have you resigned to the shutting away of life?

  • Do you strive, to seek and find and not to yield?

  • If you have been made weak by time and fate, do you remain strong in will?