Monday, November 19, 2007

Do not do go gentle into that good night - a personal note

This is a personal statement. First a poem.

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.

Though wise men at their end know dark is right,
Because their words had forked no lightning they
Do not go gentle into that good night.

Good men, the last wave by, crying how bright
Their frail deeds might have danced in a green bay,
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

Wild men who caught and sang the sun in flight,
And learn, too late, they grieved it on its way,
Do not go gentle into that good night.

Grave men, near death, who see with blinding sight
Blind eyes could blaze like meteors and be gay,
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

And you, my father, there on the sad height,
Curse, bless, me now with your fierce tears, I pray.
Do not go gentle into that good night.
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

This 1940 poem by Dylan Thomas captures how I feel tonight.

"Do night go gentle into that good night." It's not just the fact of death, it's what we have yet to achieve.

The young in a job can accept that what they do is just a right of passage to a better job. Those of us who are older must measure themselves not in career terms, but in terms of what they are achieving - now.

Of course, some can accept that the job is an income stream, keeping the wolf away. I cannot. For better and worse, I come from a public service and puritan tradition where contribution is measured in individual terms. I must justify what I do in terms of what I have achieved.

"Do not go gentle into that good night." Why must I accept second best? I am not talking here about perfection. I am talking about trying for the best that is possible in the circumstances.

In all this, I try as best I can. I have failed in many things. I will fail again. But I will try.

"Do not go gentle into that good night." I look at many stories of human achievement. Not at the Rich BRW lists, although I do read these, but at people who have made a difference at a personal level.

This, to me, is what life is about. When, as we all have to, we go into that good night, people will remember our contribution. This, for most of us, will not be that grand thing. It will be that small, individual, contribution.

We will not be there to know it. But we can take a small measure of satisfaction in advance.

Note to reader

Sorry about the multiple feeds on this one. This poem featured in the last episode on Sunday of Rain Shadow, an ABC drama that I have very much enjoyed. I could not get it out of my mind.

4 comments:

Lexcen said...

I always admire those of us who aren't afraid to take risks and to fail. Nothing ventured nothing gained as the saying goes.

Jim Belshaw said...

So do I, Lexcen.

ninglun said...

I also enjoyed Rain Shadow very much, even if I found some of the landscape shots were held just a bit too long at times for the good of the narrative. But it certainly was the kind of story we all need to see. The ABC is still pretty good, isn't it?

You may recall I quoted this poem myself in relation to Malcolm: http://ninglun.wordpress.com/2007/05/12/todays-lord-malcolm-visit/

Jim Belshaw said...

Neil, until I checked your link I had forgotten that you quoted the poem and that I had even commented. Soemhow the poem came afresh and with a different interpretation.