Friday, February 26, 2010

Prufrockin': To Shake the Status Quo or ...

T.S. Eliot's "The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock" has always stood out to me, I'm not sure why. I think it's mostly because of the end, where Eliot writes, "I have heard the mermaids singing, each to each/I do not think that they will sing to me"; ever since reading that, I have always listened for mermaids at the beach. Although I know it's kind of stupid and I know intellectually it's not possible, I believe in my heart and soul that there could be mermaids, a whole world down there in the depths of the ocean--that is the part of me that is a writer.

More academically--and more traditionally, I suppose--"Prufrock" has, to me, served as a warning to eschew mediocrity, to be brave enough to eat a peach and to never, ever be one of those women coming and going, talking of Michelangelo instead of creating their own magic. In other words, the status quo should never be good enough.

Perhaps this is the part of the poem that scares me most:
"No! I am not Prince Hamlet, nor was meant to be;
Am an attendant lord, one that will do
To swell a progress, start a scene or two,
Advise the prince; no doubt, an easy tool,
Deferential, glad to be of use,
Politic, cautious, and meticulous;
Full of high sentence, but a bit obtuse;
At times, indeed, almost ridiculous,
Almost, at times, the Fool."

The thing is, I had sworn my life over to mediocrity for a very long time. I had essentially surrendered myself into the role of an "attendant lord", going about my life in a mundane way, letting someone else call the shots and suppressing the part of myself that looks at stars and wonders why my dogs turn around three times before going to sleep and whether global warming is legit and if we all see the same shade of red when we look at an apple and ... well, you know, the part of myself that was ME.

And I have that part back now. With the help of destiny in the form of alcoholism that shattered my marriage and blew up my world, I have somehow found myself again. There is magic in my life now, tremendous magic, but I am so scared that it's an ephemeral thing, that I am just an attendant lord again, just not to a mentally ill alcoholic husband. The rational part of me says, "Nope, you can feel the magic, you are yourself again, just go with it," but the part of me that needs to know where things stand is yelling, "Be Prince Hamlet, damn it! Shake up the status quo. Live a little--if you don't make the conversation happen, you'll just exist in this vacuum until ..."

Until WHAT, Prince Hamlet part of my brain? Until what?

And then I read the last lines of Eliot's poem, about contemplating on taking that chance, of living a little, "until human voices wake us and we drown." Isn't what I have now better than that?

If you read this blog with any regularity, you can probably figure out what I'm talking about. If you don't, that's okay too ... it's a pretty universal concept, I think. So my question to you, wonderful readers, is this: is it better to just live your life, enjoying a status quo which is pretty decent, or do you shoot for the stars, take destiny into your own hands and put everything you currently have going for you at risk?

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