Thursday, January 29, 2009

Walking Life's Endless Road, Waiting for the End


I heard a series of interviews with the author John Updike, who died two days ago, on WNYC, the local NPR affiliate, as I was driving home from law school last night. One particular poem caught my attention as I listned to what he said about it. On the Road. It was written as a response to the romanization of Rambling by Jack Kerouac who fauned over running away from responsibility and being "on the road." I think it really speaks to the futility of searching for meaning under the sun, i.e. in the physical world.

Koheles 1:3: "מַה-יִּתְרוֹן, לָאָדָם בְּכָל-עֲמָלוֹ--שֶׁיַּעֲמֹל, תַּחַת הַשָּׁמֶשׁ," "What advantage is there to man with all of his toil under the sun!"

Those dutiful dogtrots down airport corridors
while gnawing at a Dunkin' Donuts cruller,
those hotel rooms where the TV remote
waits by the bed like a suicide pistol,
those hours in the air amid white shirts
whose wearers sleep-read through thick staid thrillers,
those breakfast buffets in prairie Marriotts—
such venues of transit grow dearer than home.

The tricycle in the hall, the wife's hasty kiss,
the dripping faucet and uncut lawn—this is life?
No, vita thrives via the road, in the laptop
whose silky screen shimmers like a dark queen's mirror,
in the polished shoe that signifies killer intent,
and in the solitary mission, a bumpy glide
down through the cloud cover to a single runway
at whose end a man just like you guards the Grail.

those hotel rooms where the TV remote
waits by the bed like a suicide pistol
:
The distractions we use to put our minds to sleep are just like the body's sleep; 1/60th of death.

The tricycle in the hall, the wife's hasty kiss,
the dripping faucet and uncut lawn—this is life?

"כִּי הַכֹּל הָבֶל" "because everything is vanity"

at whose end a man just like you guards the Grail.
To be so high and not high at all!
It only looked good from the bottom
.

-Dixie Yid

P.S. For more reflection on the futility of life under the sun and many more good mashalim for teshuva, read Hope for the Flowers. To listen to the interview selections that I heard, click here and select "Listen Now."

(Picture courtesy of WNYC)

Click here to get Dixie Yid in your e-mail Inbox or here to subscribe in Google Reader.

1 comment:

Neil said...

Great post. I was a big fan (once upon a time) of both Updike and Kerouac.

There's actually a line from a short story of his (I forgot the name but it was in the NEW YORKER in the summer of 1990) that I often think of:
"It had been 7 years since I left New York, but New York never left me."

"You are wherever your thoughts are, so make sure your thoughts are where you want them to be."-Rebbe Nachman