The great American poet, Dylan Thomas, famously wrote these masterful lines of the human battle against time, the inevitable, and the forces of nature.
Do not go gentle into that good night,
Old age should burn and rave at close of day;
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.
I’ve always thought a little human defiance against the seemingly immutable forces we face is a necessary and empowering ideal. We come here with no explanation. As Buddha pointed out, we age, we get sick, and eventually we die.
I think many of our philosophies play into the fears around our smallness, our temporary nature, and what comes next. I prefer philosophies that view us as unpolished diamonds hiding our greatness and our brilliance beneath a bushel.
Though Prometheus was not human, he put down a template, I believe, worthy of following. He is in the motif of the god who became man and took on human struggles.
He is well-known as the titan who stole fire and gave it to humanity against the will of the gods. As punishment, Zeus hung Prometheus from the side of a mountain with arms wide and hands chained. Each day, and eagle would come and cause agony eating his intestines. Each night, his intestines were replaced so the eagle would come back and repeat the process the next day.
Eventually, a friendly god comes to visit Prometheus. He counsels, “Simply say you’re sorry for stealing the fire and Zeus will release you.”
Prometheus responded with words that ring with a refusal to go gently into that good night. “He (Zeus) is a monster. I care less than nothing for Zeus. Let him do as he likes.”
I think we can all use a little Prometheus. He had a determination to do what was right no matter the cost or the punishment. When faced with injustice, he didn’t cave and cop a plea.
Whatever the forces of nature or the gods may do, I believe it’s empowering for we humans to take our own darn side. We’re asked to endure a great deal without adequate explanation – at least here. I don’t believe in getting stuck in those feelings of unfairness, but a defiance against it can be a source of strength.
Stand your ground. Trust in your validity simply because you are here. You need nothing more than that. No blessing from a god, help from an institution, no peace with the impersonal forces of the universe can give you what you already have the power to give yourself.
Do not go gentle. Do not bend your knee. See your greatness and help those around you to see theirs too. We are humans. Let us claim and own it! A little defiance just might set you free.
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