Friday, March 25, 2005

Schiavo postscript

Most of this and the previous postings were actually written before hella frisch came into being, and sent as e-mail to members of my family.

The Terri Schiavo case, or at least the political machinations surrounding it, seems to invite a certain cynicism. Following the story, though, reminds me of how wonderful, and how mysterious and confusing, life as a human being can be. I wanted to copy out a poem I read yesterday which applied quite neatly, I thought - it's from Spoon River Anthology by Edgar Lee Masters:

Professor Newcomer

Everyone laughed at Col. Prichard
For buying an engine so powerful
That it wrecked itself, and wrecked the grinder
He ran it with.
But here is a joke of cosmic size:
The urge of nature that made a man
Evolve from his brain a spiritual life ---
Oh miracle of the world! ---
The very same brain with which the ape and wolf
Get food and shelter and procreate themselves.
Nature has made man do this,
In a world where she gives him nothing to do
After all --- (though the strength of his soul goes round
In a futile waste of power,
To gear itself to the mills of the gods) ---
But get food and shelter and procreate himself!

Another passage I read recently also seemed relevant. This is from the book The Rural Life by Verlyn Klinkenborg:

For some reason the sight of that elderberry carried me back a year, to a hospice room in Sacramento where my stepmother, Sally, whom I'd known for more than half my life, lay in a coma, dying. All life support had ceased, and those of us who gathered around knew that the self within her had withdrawn for good. But the vigorous breathing continued, one day, then another and another. I can still feel the force of those breaths, the elemental power of the reflex that drove them. The conscious life we live seems so fragile that it comes as a shock to witness the organic thrust toward living that underlies it. I never understood the optimism or the power of that reflex until I watched, hour after hour, the raw persistence of those unthinking breaths, which finally ceased while my brother John and I stood over her one night. Our breathing seemed shallow by comparison.

No comments: