I awoke this morning to the sights and sounds of a thunderstorm here in the Appalachian Mountains. It dawned on me that it was Christmas Eve and that I generally like to read and write about something appropriate for the holiday. But with the stresses of my relatively new job and being engrossed in reading the very long and dense Infinite Jest, I failed to look for something to read that was seasonal. So I gave it a little thought and decided that I would read the lyrics to one of my favorite Christmas songs and analyze it as a poem.
They said there’ll be snow at Christmas
They said there’ll be peace on earth
But instead it just kept on raining
A veil of tears for the Virgin’s birth
I remember one Christmas morning
A winter’s light and a distant choir
And the peal of a bell and that Christmas tree smell
And their eyes full of tinsel and fire
They sold me a dream of Christmas
They sold me a silent night
And they told me a fairy story
’till I believed in the Israelite
And I believed in Father Christmas
And I looked at the sky with excited eyes
’till I woke with a yawn in the first light of dawn
And I saw him and through his disguise
I wish you a hopeful Christmas
I wish you a brave New Year
All anguish, pain, and sadness
Leave your heart and let your road be clear
They said there’ll be snow at Christmas
They said there’ll be peace on Earth
Hallelujah, Noel, be it Heaven or Hell
The Christmas we get, we deserve
What I find most amazing about this poem (yes, I will refer to it as a poem instead of a song) is the expression of contradictory emotions. On one hand, there is disillusion and a touch of sadness, yet this is contrasted by feelings of hope and optimism at the possibility for happiness and spiritual joy. And it is done in such a way that I cannot say which side of the emotional spectrum is most strongly expressed. The result is that you connect to this poem based upon your own emotional state when you engage with it. So if you are feeling sad, you connect with the sadness but then get touched with a sense of hope. Conversely, if you are brimming with joy and happiness, you get that from the poem too, but tempered with the knowledge that there is still sadness in the world and that all things, even the joyous, will pass.
We have all heard the old cliché, that we create our own Heaven and Hell. I believe this, and I love the way it is expressed at the end of this poem. The choices we make and the thoughts that we choose to latch on to directly impact our feelings and the reality around us. If we choose the path of spirituality and happiness, then we deserve the blessings that accompany those conscious decisions and should celebrate those blessings. But if we choose to focus on the negative and the path of hate and fear, then we also deserve the life that we are burdened with and must accept responsibility for the reality which we helped create.
I wish all of you many blessings for the holidays and New Year, regardless of which holiday you observe or whether you observe a holiday at all. For myself, I am going to focus on my family and spreading more happiness, love, compassion, and understanding, because I think the world could use a little more of that right about now.
As I was reading this issue, I couldn’t help thinking about the results of the recent election. Political power can change quickly and the results can sometimes be drastic. Already, it looks like there will be changes in environmental policy that will have far-reaching effects. There is a section in this issue where the Doctor is contemplating the environmental destruction of a planet that was the result of a shift in government.
There was a shift in government, and the new rulers of the system decided that maintaining Rokhandi was an unnecessary expense. And let’s face it, they were right. I mean, what does a hummingbird provide, eh? What do candy lizards manufacture? What profit is there in a canyon that sings? So they sold it all. The friends of the rulers got first pick, of course. Lovely big bonuses all around. There were a few petitions, but there always are, aren’t there?
This is sad, but ever so true. I hate to sound cynical, but every time I see a petition going around Facebook I can’t help but think that it means nothing, and if anything, it is detrimental. Without trying to sound like a conspiracy nut, what do you think happens to your personal information when you sign a petition? It goes into a database somewhere and you are tagged.
I like to balance my cynicism with some optimism. Governments can quickly shift in the other direction, too. I have seen it happen in my lifetime. The pendulum swings both ways. I just hope that it never swings too far that it gets stuck.
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Love seeketh not itself to please, Nor for itself hath any care, But for another gives its ease, And builds a Heaven in Hells despair.
So sung a little Clod of Clay Trodden with the cattle’s feet, But a Pebble of the brook Warbled out these metres meet:
Love seeketh only self to please, To bind another to its delight, Joys in another’s loss of ease, And builds a Hell in Heavens despite.
I found this poem to be pretty dark and depressing. For a short poem, there is a lot packed in here and it does not paint a nice picture of human nature and society.
The poem is broken into three stanzas. The first stanza expresses the views of the clod and the third the views of the pebble. The second is an outside observation tying the two together. I will go into more detail on each of these perspectives and the associated symbolism.
The first thing to consider is what the clod and the pebble represent. I see several interpretations for these metaphors. On a basic level, the clod is a poor, underprivileged person, one of the masses, and conversely, the pebble is a ruler or someone of the upper class. The poor person is trodden down by the masses of society while the rich person remains firmly planted as life swirls about.
The clod and the pebble also represent basic personality traits, the optimist and the pessimist, respectively. The clod has a positive outlook, is guided by unconditional love, and seeks to make the world a better place by easing the hell associated with human suffering. The pebble has a negative view of love and humanity. The pessimistic outlook casts a shroud of negativity over everything it comes in contact with. Despite being in a heavenly state, the pessimist always sees the negative and by expressing that negativity, “builds a Hell in Heaven.”
Finally, I see a psychological interpretation here that is worth exploring. I could not help seeing the clod as the compassionate aspect of our psyche, while the pebble is like the ego. The clod, like the passionate nature of our mind, is pliant and can be molded by our experiences. That is not the case with the ego-pebble. The pebble is hard and self-contained. The stream of consciousness swirls about the pebble, but the pebble is unmoved and basically oblivious to anything outside itself.
I know that some of my interpretation stems from ideas that came after Blake wrote this, but I like to think that Blake was someone who was able to tap into something greater than himself and to draw inspiration from a divine source. He was clearly centuries ahead of his time.
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