Wednesday, January 13, 2010

What is your life? For you are a mist that appears for a little time and then vanishes...

In December my uncle died. To the best of my knowledge he wasn't a Christian and he wouldn't have wanted a Christian funeral, so it was a brief secular ceremony. His death at 60 reminded me of the fleeting nature of life, and that our only hope is found in the mercy of God. My Dad spoke of his older brother, and I gave this reading, which was as close to Ecclesiastes or Psalm 78:33, Psalm 103:15-16, James 4:14 as I could be without citing scripture.

When I remember my uncle I remember him at forty. I remember a man who was fun to be with. I remember the man who let his ten year old nephew sit on his motorbike in the garden at The Dingle and imagine the air blowing through my hair. And then I awake from my memory and I'm not ten anymore, I'm thirty with a newborn son of my own and my uncle isn't here anymore. I remember that life is so fleeting. Everything changes so quickly. It's with this in mind that I've selected this poem, Mutability by our distant cousin Percy Bysshe Shelley. Mutability, the old word for how we're subject to change. He pictures us like clouds in the night sky and the notes that ring out from an instrument and then are gone. Everything changes. Mutability.

We are as clouds that veil the midnight moon;
How restlessly they speed, and gleam, and quiver,
Streaking the darkness radiantly! -yet soon
Night closes round, and they are lost for ever:

Or like forgotten lyres, whose dissonant strings
Give various response to each varying blast,
To whose frail frame no second motion brings
One mood or modulation like the last.

We rest. -A dream has power to poison sleep;
We rise. -One wandering thought pollutes the day;
We feel, conceive or reason, laugh or weep;
Embrace fond woe, or cast our cares away:

It is the same! -For, be it joy or sorrow,
The path of its departure still is free:
Man's yesterday may ne'er be like his morrow;
Nought may endure but Mutablilty.

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